By Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub | January 4, 2024
Chances are you are not heart surgeon, but someday you might be a candidate for heart surgery. Imagine entrusting your life to a heart surgeon who says, “Well, I know that there are many blood vessels connected to your heart, but really, the only one I think that matters is the aorta. That’s all I concentrate on, and that’s all I’ll study and look at when I open you up to perform heart surgery.”
Jonathan Brater, Director of Elections, acts on behalf of the Secretary of State to oversee all state and federal elections in Michigan. He reports directly to Secretary Jocelyn Benson, the state’s chief elections officer. Brater, throughout his training and practice as an attorney, would have studied all the elections laws and their interplay.
Just as hearts beat at the center of the human circulatory systems, Michigan’s heart is its electoral system. Freedom and the republic depend on the steady pulse of free and fair elections. Each blood vessel and chamber of the human heart works in tandem to keep the living body working. Together, the pulmonary artery and aorta, the superior and inferior vena cava—all chambers of the heart and its incoming arteries and outflowing veins—feed nutrients and oxygen through the heart to the body. So, too, it is with elections, the heart of our living republic.
We the People, like individual patients, rely on our chosen specialists to understand both the parts and the vital interplay among the parts.
Michigan elections are regulated by the United States Constitution, Federal election laws, the Michigan Constitution, state election laws, and what is called binding judicial law, commonly referred to as “cases.” All of these laws and cases keep the election system working. Each is equally important, and the interplay among them is what the chief elections official of a state should know and study.
Every law, just as every artery and vein of the heart, is crucial to the operations of the overall system.
However, during the criminal case brought by Attorney General Nessel charging the “16 False Electors” with crimes including forgery, Jonathan Brater was called to the stand. These “16 false electors” are entitled, as every U.S. citizen is entitled, to a trial where they are innocent until proven guilty.
We the People pay Jonathan Brater, as Michigan’s second in command on elections, to run all elections according to all the laws. Then he testified under oath and serious issues came to light. When asked under cross examination what the United States Constitution says about the interplay between state legislators and elections, Director Brater replied he “couldn’t speak” to it. (watch Judge Kristen D. Simmons' Courtroom at time marker 3:07:20)
One had to wonder: Was he saying that he didn’t understand what the Constitution said about elections?
Director Brater testified that, upon seeing the “Certificate of Votes” of the “16 False Electors,” he sent it directly to the Attorney General’s office because it was “unusual.” (Judge Simmons' Courtroom, 3:32:30) He testified that he did not ask Secretary Benson, his boss, about it.
The attorney cross-examining Mr. Brater about Michigan’s 2020 Federal election in particular, asked Brater if he was aware of any time in our nation’s history when either a Certificate of Votes of an electoral college had never made it to Congress or when two competing Certificate of Votes had been sent to Congress. The attorney was asking Brater if he knew of other instances in which two sets of electors submitted their votes for President of the U.S.
Brater’s failure to know the answer was equivalent to a heart surgeon saying he didn’t know that Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant. (Judge Simmons' Courtroom 3:13 - Wisconsin and 4:24 – Hawaii.)
Hawaii’s case is strikingly similar to the Michigan case with its Trump electors in December 2020 and January 2021, so it is extremely relevant. In fact, what happened in Hawaii might be considered “legal precedent,” something that taxpayers should expect their Director of Elections, acting on behalf of the state’s Chief Elections Officer, to have studied and considered.
Brater stated that he was aware that Hawaii was a state in 1960, but he was not aware of this elections’ law case so similar to the case he oversees in Michigan. He was asked more questions on the topic until finally the judge said, “Move along. He’s already told you he’s only marginally aware of this case.” (4:28:09)
Later, when Brater, a witness for the Attorney General, was again questioned about the similarities between the Michigan and Hawaii cases, the judge said: “He’s less than marginally aware of what happened in that case. He’s not aware at all.” (4:31:23)
Brater was also asked if he watched the counting of the electoral college votes by Vice President Mike Pence (President of the Senate) on January 6, 2020. Asked why he watched it, he said one of the reasons was that it “was interesting.” (3:29:30)
Could he recall whether any objections were made to the certification of votes?
“I believe so,” Brater replied, yet he was unable to name the lone senator who objected.
We the People could be mistaken, but that seems equivalent to our hypothetical heart surgeon not knowing that a normal resting heart rate for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Jonathan Brater is entrusted with running Michigan’s elections, both state and Federal. He sends out numerous memos to Michigan clerks alerting them to changes in the law and instructing them on procedures (Different judges in five different case have found these instructions to be unlawful (Genetski v Benson, Carra v Benson, Johnson v Benson, and O’Halloran v Benson).
Election integrity is as important to Michigan and the United States as a beating heart is to the human body. Perhaps we should demand as much from our election officials as we do from our trusted heart surgeons.
Together we can all make this happen.
Join us at Michigan Fair Elections.
Improving the government is just a heartbeat away.
Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub serves as MFE’s director of communications. She started her career working for an international company, transitioned into teaching French and Latin while her children were young, and then became a Michigan attorney.
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