Hillsdale Republicans expressed concern over the removal of North Adams Township clerk Stephanie Scott from her duties, following her refusal to turn over election equipment.
On Oct. 25, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson relieved Scott of her duties for the Nov. 2 election, alleging that she failed to comply with the Bureau of Elections, and commanding her to turn in election equipment. On Oct. 29, the Michigan State Police executed a search warrant to recover missing election equipment at the North Adams Township Hall.
North Adams Township Supervisor Mark Nichols said the equipment never went missing, and was in the township hall the whole time.
“I’m here to witness that it was in safe keeping in our hall,” Nichols said.
Scott told Bridge Michigan that she was concerned returning the tabulators would lead to authorities tampering with the equipment.
“The county clerk’s office and now secretary of state are demanding I drop off my machine for unfettered access, and God only knows doing what to it,” Scott told Bridge Michigan.
Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford said he believes that in refusing to hand over equipment to the state, Scott was performing what she considered to be her duties as township clerk.
“I think she’s acting in good faith,” Stockford said, “I think that she read what the statutory requirements for her position are, and I think she feels that this is what her position asks of her: to administer the elections. I think that she sees safeguarding the elections as part of those responsibilities.”
Hillsdale County Republican Party Secretary Jon Smith agreed with Stockford, claiming that Scott was performing her duty as she understood it.
“I think she’s just concerned that the idea of having a free and fair election is not being honored,” Smith said.
Hillsdale Democratic Party Secretary Mike Sutton did not respond to request for comment.
On Oct. 22, Benson sent Scott a letter notifying her that she would be relieved of her usual duties in administering the Nov. 2 election.
“Your past statements, detailed in prior letters, indicate that you are unwilling to fulfill your responsibilities as clerk, and you have failed to confirm that you will fulfill them in response to recent correspondence,” Benson said in the letter.
Smith said he believes Benson is overstepping her bounds in removing Scott from her position in North Adams Township.
“I think she feels like she’s trying to do her job, and the secretary of state is trying to undermine her,” Smith said.
Local attorney and Hillsdale County Republican Party Chairman Daren Wiseley also said he is concerned that Benson’s actions are extralegal.
“The secretary of state does have a lot of power, so I’m not denying that, but to go out there and strip her unilaterally, I think that’s definitely goes beyond the scope of powers vested in the secretary of state,” Wiseley said.
Nichols said he is concerned that township officials who are going along with the Michigan State Police and the secretary of state in handing over the equipment are acting “prematurely.”
“There are people in the township who aren’t really cognizant of all the ways that cheating could have occurred,” Nichols said.
Smith also expressed concern that some township officials were overly eager to comply with demands from Benson’s office.
“My biggest issue with the whole ordeal is that my county clerk and the deputy clerk– which I consider them both my friends– I feel like they’re taking it upon themselves to get themselves involved in something they didn’t have to get involved in,” Smith said.
Smith said he is concerned it will be harder for Scott to win potential legal battles, since Hillsdale County Clerk Marney Kast and Chief Deputy Clerk Abe Dane are getting involved in the situation.
“Stephanie Scott has a legit concern with the way everything is handled and structured, which goes beyond Marney Kast and Abe Dane, and if they would just allow the grievance to go maybe we can get some relief there,” Smith said.
According to the Hillsdale Daily News, Dane recently administered the Nov. 2 election in Adams township and seized all remaining election materials from North Adams Township Hall.
In emails obtained by the Hillsdale Daily News through a Freedom of Information Act request, Dane explained the reason for taking this election material.
“Due to the controversial atmosphere created by many false statements and misinformation regarding election security and procedures in Adams Township, as the designated Adams Township election administrator, I took possession of all Nov. 3, 2020 election ballots, AV envelopes and ballot applications,” Dane wrote.
Stephanie Scott is unable to offer comment at this time.