‘Absence of Facts’: Michigan Republican Chairperson Fined $58,000 Over Election Lies

Kristina Karamo looks on during the Unite America rally at Fairlane Banquet Center in Dearborn on October 30, 2022. (Photo by Nic Antaya for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

June 14, 2023

Michigan Republican Chairperson Kristina Karamo and others have been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees after filing a lawsuit that was “rife with speculation,” a judge ruled this week.

DETROIT—A judge this week ordered Michigan Republican Party Chairperson Kristina Karamo and others to pay more than $58,000 in legal fees that were incurred by the Detroit clerk’s office fighting a frivolous lawsuit Republicans filed last year challenging absentee voting in the city.

In an order signed Monday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny said the lawsuit, in which Karamo was the lead plaintiff, was “rife with speculation, an absence of facts and a lack of understanding of Michigan election statutes and Detroit absentee ballot procedures.”

“Plaintiffs merely threw out the allegation of ‘corruption in Detroit’ as the reason for disregarding the Michigan Constitution in this state’s largest city,” Kenny wrote in the order, which demanded the plaintiffs pay the $58,459 that the clerk’s office spent fighting the lawsuit.

The lawsuit—filed 13 days before the 2022 midterm elections—attempted to force Detroiters to vote in person or go to the city clerk’s office to get an absentee ballot. It included a variety of unfounded allegations about how Detroit election officials review signatures and monitor drop-off boxes. It also included claims about “uncertified” tabulators being used to count votes.

It was dismissed the day before the Nov. 8 election. 

“Despite plaintiffs’ arguments to ‘shed light in a dark place,’ they have failed dramatically,” Kenny said, noting that over an eight-hour hearing last year, no evidence of legal violations were found.

When the lawsuit was filed in October, Karamo was the Republican nominee for secretary of state. Karamo ultimately lost to Democrat Jocelyn Benson by 14 percentage points before going on to be elected as the state GOP chairperson in February.

Sam Inglot, executive director at Progress Michigan, labeled the lawsuit an “11th hour attempt to disenfranchise voters,” and said this week’s court fines are her “well-deserved consequences.”

“Now she quite literally must pay for her failure,” Inglot said in a statement. “Her lawsuit was a waste of the court’s time and showed Michiganders what she and Michigan Republicans are all about: silencing voters, especially voters of color, to preserve their own power.”

Karamo’s campaign was based largely on extremism and conspiracy theories—including likening abortion to child sacrifice; falsely claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 election; downplaying the Jan. 6 insurrection; condemning LGBTQ relationships; accusing women of being addicted to porn; and declaring that couples living together before marriage somehow opens the door to pedophilia.

Since becoming party chairwoman, millions of dollars have gone missing from the Republican Party, and Karamo still hasn’t conceded after she lost to Benson in November.

Inglot added: “Karamo and other anti-voter activists and organizations will continue to try to block access to the ballot and prevent Michiganders’ voices from being heard, but they will continue to fail because the people of Michigan overwhelmingly support our freedom to vote.”

Under Democratic leadership in the state legislature, bills advancing in committees this month will align state law with a recent constitutional amendment to expand voting rights, and lawmakers say they’ll create a “historic new era of voter access” in Michigan. Those bills include plans for nine days of early voting beginning with next year’s presidential primary election. 

READ MORE: Michigan Lawmakers to Turn Election Day into Election Week

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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