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More than a year after the 2020 election, roughly a third of Americans continue to believe, without evidence, that the results of the election were illegitimate. And now, GOP candidates are tapping into the “Big Lie,” campaigning for office on the promise to change how future elections are run.

We zero in on Michigan, a key swing state where Republicans are aiming to shape the future of elections. Reporter Byard Duncan talks with the Antrim County clerk, who was flooded with ugly calls and threats after her office accidentally assigned votes meant for Donald Trump to Joe Biden. While the error was quickly fixed, many in the GOP, including Trump, have used the county to sow doubt about the entire election’s results. Duncan reports on the race for secretary of state, Michigan’s top election official, and how the leading GOP candidate has repeatedly referenced Antrim County to question the integrity of elections. The Trump-endorsed candidate has outraised her Republican opponents by at least tenfold. 

There was no meaningful election fraud in Michigan in 2020. But some local election officials who voted to certify the election have paid a price. Reporter Trey Bundy tells the story of Wayne County official Monica Palmer, a Republican who was kicked off the local canvassing board after certifying the election. And she’s just one of many: Republicans have now placed new election officials on boards in eight of Michigan’s largest counties. At least half of them have cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election.

Finally, looking to the future, Republicans in Michigan are making it harder to vote. Since the 2020 election, the Michigan Senate, led by Republicans, has introduced nearly 40 bills to change its election laws, all of which propose new barriers to voting. Guest host Shereen Marisol Meraji talks with Branden Snyder, co-executive director of Detroit Action, a local activist group that organizes working-class Detroiters, about how his group is mobilizing against efforts to undermine the vote.

Dig Deeper

Read: A March 2022 Brennan Center for Justice survey of how local election officials are feeling. (PDF)

Credits

Lead producer: Najib Aminy | Reporters and producers: Byard Duncan and Trey Bundy | Editors: Brett Myers, Andy Donohue and Casey Miner | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Fact checker: Nikki Frick | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode art: Molly Mendoza | Score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda | Post-production team: Jess Alvarenga, Steven Rascón and Kathryn Styer Martínez | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Shereen Marisol Meraji

Special thanks to J. Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan, Christopher Thomas at the Bipartisan Policy Center and Candice Fortman and Sarah Alvarez of Outlier Media. Thanks also to Queena Kim.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Aura Bogado:Hi, I’m Aura Bogado, a senior reporter at Reveal. My work focuses on migrant children confined in federal custody. I’ve investigated abuse, forced drugging, even tasing in government sponsored shelters. The stories I work on are told from the perspective of the people experiencing the policies and practices I’m investigating, in this case, migrant children. Support rigorous, ethical, investigative reporting. Donate today at revealnews.org/donate.
Shereen Marisol…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Shereen Marisol Meraji, in for Al Letson. I’m taking you back to January 2nd of last year to a phone call between then President Donald Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.
Donald Trump:You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.
Brad Raffensper…:We believe that we do have an accurate election.
Donald Trump:No. I know you don’t. No, no, you don’t. You don’t have. You don’t have, not even close.
Shereen Marisol…:This call went down four days before the rioter stormed the Capitol. And in the week since the election, Raffensperger had already overseen two recounts, one by hand, another by machine, and both confirmed that Trump lost Georgia, but Donald Trump wasn’t having it.
Donald Trump:So look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes.
Shereen Marisol…:The exact number of votes Trump needed to beat Joe Biden in Georgia.
Donald Trump:Brad, what are we going to do? We won the election and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this.
Shereen Marisol…:Raffensperger holds his ground. Biden wins Georgia and democracy prevails. That’s the short story. But the long story is that it’s not over. Across the country, candidates are running for office campaigning on the myth that the election was stolen, and they’re pushing to change the way elections are run in the future. On today’s show, we’re going to look at one swing state where all this is happening. A state where big lie backers are running for office from the county level, all the way up to the secretary of state. I’m talking about Michigan, a state that made headlines for political mayhem in 2020.
Shereen Marisol…:A lot has happened in the world since then. So let me refresh your memory. There was the plot to kidnap the governor, protesters disrupted the presidential vote count in Detroit, and a group of lawyers allied with Trump filed a lawsuit attempting to decertify the state’s election results. And like I said earlier, the story is not over. Reporter Byard Duncan picks it up in Michigan’s Antrim County.
Byard Duncan:The morning after the 2020 election, Sheryl Guy was at a McDonald’s when she first realized something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Sheryl Guy:I was at the drive through bringing breakfast back to the staff.
Byard Duncan:When she saw an email on her phone.
Sheryl Guy:That said our numbers looked odd.
Byard Duncan:Sheryl is the county clerk in Antrim County, about 250 miles Northwest of Detroit. She and her team had been up all night finalizing the local voting results. She left work only two hours earlier just to run home and take a shower. When she got the email, it was around 7:00 AM.
Sheryl Guy:I just went, oh no. What I did is I rushed in back to work and immediately I’m like, we got a problem.
Byard Duncan:The problem specifically was that Antrim County seemed to have swung wildly to the left.
Speaker 8:Antrim County, the Northern Michigan GOP stronghold became part of the 2020 election controversy after unofficial results showed Antrim had flipped from a traditional red county to blue.
Byard Duncan:The county is so reliably Republican that it didn’t seem possible Joe Biden could win there. Something must have gone wrong with the vote count. And so Sheryl, who’d worked for the county for more than 40 years suddenly found herself sitting on top of a political powder keg.
Sheryl Guy:It just blew. The prosecutor was calling, because of course somebody wanted to file a criminal claim against us because we committed fraud.
Byard Duncan:Before we get our britches and stitches, let’s take a moment to be very clear here. What happened was not fraud. It was human error. See, there was a last minute ballot revision, and Sheryl and her team should have updated the ballot scanners to account for it, but they didn’t. So when the results came in, a spreadsheet row was essentially pushed over into the wrong place. Meaning that Trump votes got slotted under Biden. Multiple expert reports later proved this. Sheryl’s team ultimately fixed these issues and Donald Trump won Antrim County as expected.
Byard Duncan:But for some Republicans, the incident looked like an outrage, a sinister plot, an opportunity. Trump’s legal team led by Rudy Giuliani made repeated references to Antrim County in a memo aimed at overturning the election. And on January 6th, minutes before an angry mob stormed the Capitol, Trump used Antrim to sow doubt about the results.
Donald Trump:In one Michigan county alone, 6,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden, and the same systems are used in the majority of states in our country.
Byard Duncan:This suggestion, if this happened in Antrim County, couldn’t it happen anywhere? It doesn’t hold water. It only would if the same specific human error had occurred with clerks all across the country. And there’s just no evidence of that. Regardless, Antrim was under a national microscope, and Sheryl who by the way voted for Trump, she says she got flooded with voicemails, emails, and threats.
Sheryl Guy:I mean, it was ugly. I started parking by requests of HR in a different location.
Byard Duncan:People were accusing Sheryl of subverting the election in favor of Biden. There was all kinds of misinformation flying around.
Sheryl Guy:I’m going to jail, because I’m a criminal. Sheriff’s looking for me now.
Byard Duncan:Do you know the sheriff? You must.
Sheryl Guy:Yeah. Yes. I’ve known him for probably 40 years.
Byard Duncan:And what’s your relationship like? Is he looking for you?
Sheryl Guy:Oh, he’s a great guy. And if I need anything, he’s there.
Byard Duncan:Why do people think you would do this as a Republican and as somebody who’s served in this role for like 40 years, why suddenly would you want to cheat?
Sheryl Guy:Because they did not win. And their goal is to ruin anybody who steps in their way. They don’t care. They’ll ruin anybody to get somebody to listen to them.
Byard Duncan:When a mistake like this ripples out into a tsunami of misinformation, there are often people who get crushed, like Sheryl. But then there are others who catch the wave and use its momentum in their favor. People like Kristina Karamo.
Kristina Karamo:In Antrim County, 6,000 votes were switched from President Trump to Joe Biden from Dominion software. Dominion software is in 47 counties. I’ve done my math. That’s over 200,000 votes that have been potentially compromised. And Joe Biden claimed to have won Michigan by like 150,000 votes.
Byard Duncan:Karamo is an educator and self-described proud Christian patriot. On election day, she served as a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit, where she says she witnessed evidence of widespread fraud. Claims like hers were later debunked in court. By March of 2021, Karamo turned election security from a talking point into a full on campaign strategy.
Kristina Karamo:Secure elections is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.
Byard Duncan:Karamo went from a relative unknown to announcing her candidacy for secretary of state, Michigan’s top elections official. She earned Trump’s endorsement and received a $5,000 donation straight from his Save America pack. She’s outraised both her Republican opponents by at least tenfold. And Karamo is not alone. Across the country, there are around 20 candidates for secretary of state who are casting doubt on the integrity of our elections. In October, several of them got together at, of all places, a QAnon conference in Las Vegas to share their plans. Among them was Jim Marchant.
Jim Marchant:I can’t stress enough how important the secretary of state offices are. I think they are the most important election in our country in 2022. And why is that?
Speaker 11:Election.
Jim Marchant:We control the election system.
Byard Duncan:Marchant is a former Nevada state assembly person who in 2020, lost a congressional race there. He blamed fraud and sued and lost in court. After that, Marchant says Trump’s allies came to him with a new idea.
Jim Marchant:They asked me, “Would you instead of running for Congress again, would you run for secretary of state of Nevada?” Not only did they ask me to run, they asked me to put together a coalition of other like-minded secretary of state candidates.
Byard Duncan:They named it, The America First Secretary of State Coalition. Marchant says their first meeting included Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, and a leading supporter of Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Today, there are seven candidates in the coalition. Most are in swing states and they have clear goals.
Jim Marchant:When we’re secretary of state of our respective states, what do we intend to do? Number one, how about voter ID? How about get rid of mail-in ballots?
Byard Duncan:Karamo also spoke at that QAnon conference, by the way.
Kristina Karamo:Our secretary of state, she loves to put on the soccer mom act. So she gets on TV, like she’s just a nice mom in the neighborhood that wants to bake cookies for everybody, but she’s a evil woman. She’s a very evil, evil, evil woman.
Byard Duncan:Karamo’s message is crystal clear. The 2020 election was riddled with fraud. The crowd gobbles it right up. But again, it’s not true. In Michigan, a bipartisan Senate oversight committee led by Republican, Ed McBroom spent months investigating. They heard more than two dozen hours of testimony and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. And they came to a clear conclusion, no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Theories about Antrim County, they wrote, are a “complete waste of time.”
Byard Duncan:Jocelyn Benson, that soccer mom Karamo mentioned, her office scrutinized the 2020 election, overseeing more than 250 post-election audits, 250 of them with bipartisan participation from around 1,300 local clerks. They did find some evidence of fraud and last year charged three people out of more than five million votes cast. But at that conference, Karamo brushes all of this aside. She frames the next election as a life or death fight for the soul of the country. She concludes her speech with a call to action, get involved in election day operations. Become a precinct delegate.
Kristina Karamo:We cannot sit back and expect somebody else to protect our freedom. It’s our job. It is our responsibility to protect our freedom. And if we don’t do it, who will?
Jeff Timmer:They’ve been able to infiltrate the Republican party right down to the precinct level in a way that I’ve been astounded by.
Byard Duncan:This is Jeff Timmer. He’s worked in Republican politics for 30 years, and ran the Michigan GOP from 2005 to 2009. Now he’s with the Lincoln Project, a coalition of anti-Trump Republicans. When he looks at the party today, he’s alarmed by what he sees.
Jeff Timmer:They have paid attention to those very obscure, small party positions, precinct delegates, getting their people in place to chair county Republican parties all of across the country, not just in Michigan. There was nobody that supported Donald Trump in the Republican party before 2015. And now virtually everyone in positions of power is not just reluctantly supporting Trump, but enthusiastically a disciple.
Byard Duncan:A disciple, he says, like Karamo.
Jeff Timmer:Why Donald Trump would care to endorse a candidate like this? Why would the president of the United States care about the secretary of state nominee in Michigan? Well, it’s because having somebody in that position in 2024 will give him something he lacked in 2020.
Byard Duncan:So here’s where it’s useful to know how exactly a Trump loyalist might put their thumb on the scale during the next election. Jeff and a few other experts I spoke to said there are a bunch of ways. They can make life hell for local election officials, creating court battles and mucking up the certification process. They can push for never ending audits, and they can wage a war of public opinion, casting doubt on the count.
Jeff Timmer:We’ve never had to worry about who counts the vote. We’ve had this joint belief that, okay, we fight the good fight as partisans, election day comes, they count the votes, and we abide by the results. It never dawned on anybody to say, “Hey, we’re just going to contest the results of that last election. We’re never going to concede it. And we’re going to sow as much doubt as we can. We’re going to try to change laws.” The result has been this sustained attack on the foundations, the administration of democracy, something that’s just simple arithmetic.
Byard Duncan:I reached out a dozen times to Kristina Karamo. She wouldn’t agree to talk to us. When I approached her at an online fundraiser in late March, she continued using Antrim County as evidence of potential wider fraud. And she said, Ed McBroom’s report was flawed. Eventually, her team muted my microphone and ended the event. But she’s not the only GOP candidate who refuses to say Joe Biden won. On a cold morning, I drive to Lansing to chat with one of her challengers.
Beau LaFave:My name is Beau LaFave. I’m a member of the Michigan house of representatives. Have been since 2017. And I serve in the Republican house majority.
Byard Duncan:Beau is from the upper peninsula. His platform is a bit more conventional than Karamo’s. He’s primarily concerned with improving public access to the secretary of state’s offices. And talking to him, you get the sense he’d rather not get too deep on the issue of a stolen election.
Beau LaFave:I take each issue as it comes to me.
Byard Duncan:When the claim that the election was stolen comes to you, how do you take that?
Beau LaFave:Well, the election was stolen. The election was stolen through four years of fake news coverage, of lies and propaganda propagated by the Democrat party and their allies in the media. They stole it before they started counting ballots.
Byard Duncan:I ask Beau about specifics. Does he believe Antrim County represents some grand conspiracy?
Beau LaFave:The machines didn’t screw up in Antrim, the clerk did.
Byard Duncan:So you don’t believe there was fraud in Antrim.
Beau LaFave:I’m sure there was fraud in Antrim. I’m sure there was fraud all over the state of Michigan.
Byard Duncan:Why?
Beau LaFave:When you send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to a million people that don’t exist, the opportunity for fraud is there. Now, can I-
Byard Duncan:Well, you just said two things. There’s the opportunity for fraud and then there’s actually proven fraud. So where are the instances of proven fraud?
Beau LaFave:Well, I mean, even the secretary of state said that there was. There was a couple of votes that-
Byard Duncan:Right. I read about a couple, but we’re talking… Sorry. I should have said widespread fraud. Where’s the evidence of widespread fraud?
Beau LaFave:Well, I guess you have to quibble with what the word widespread is. One disenfranchised voter is unacceptable. How much fraud is acceptable? I don’t think any is.
Byard Duncan:The so-called big lie is now so entrenched in the GOP that it’s morphed into a sort of loyalty test. Dismissing it is politically risky. In fact, a recent poll shows three quarters of Republicans in the US believe Trump’s claims that fraud altered the outcome of the 2020 election. I think I’ve asked you several times, if you feel like the election was stolen in Michigan. And I don’t think I’ve gotten a yes or no from you.
Beau LaFave:Ask me the question again.
Byard Duncan:Do you believe that the election was stolen or fraudulent in Michigan in 2020?
Beau LaFave:Again, it was stolen through four years.
Byard Duncan:Respectfully, you just said that and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about specifically the concerns raised in the Ed McBroom report, Antrim County, TCF Center.
Beau LaFave:Which specific allegation?
Byard Duncan:That there was widespread voter fraud brought before, again and again, by person after person, brought before the oversight committee and addressed sort of point by point. I know you’ve read the McBroom report, right?
Beau LaFave:I have read the McBroom report.
Byard Duncan:Okay. So I want to just nail this down. Do you believe that or not? Yes or no.
Beau LaFave:What part of the report? There’s 17.
Byard Duncan:The conclusion that McBroom disagreed with that there was widespread fraud that occurred in Michigan during the 2020 election.
Beau LaFave:I guess, what is the definition of widespread? How many fraudulent votes are an acceptable amount of fraud? My answer is zero.
Byard Duncan:In elections, there inevitably is some minuscule amount of fraud that often gets caught and prosecuted. A recent analysis by the associated press found that potentially fraudulent ballots for Biden and for Trump accounted for less than two tenths of a percent of all votes cast in key battleground states in 2020. Nowhere near enough to swing the results. Administering elections is hard. It takes people with patience and experience. People who spend decades in drab offices, pushing papers and answering phone calls. People like Sheryl Guy in Antrim County. Just walk me around what you got here from over the years.
Sheryl Guy:Well, last week I was awarded my 40 year recognition.
Byard Duncan:It’s like a little wooden trophy kind of.
Sheryl Guy:Yeah. Of course, my dammit doll.
Byard Duncan:What’s a dammit doll? Show me the dammit doll?
Sheryl Guy:My girls got this for me. Yep. Whack.
Byard Duncan:You take it down and just slam it on your desk. Sheryl is retiring after this term, and she no longer considers herself part of the Republican party. Says she didn’t renew her membership. She worries about the GOP’s future. And she says, people who believe in the big lie are infiltrating systems all across the state.
Sheryl Guy:Whether it’s local clerks, whether it’s board of canvasers, whether it’s county clerks, state reps, attorney generals, I think that these people are trying to work their way in. And what’s happening is those people that have worked really hard to follow the rules, to follow the law, they’re getting tired.
Byard Duncan:The thing Sheryl wanted me to understand about all of this, the scrutiny, the abuse from strangers and people she was once friendly with, it takes a toll. It wears you down.
Sheryl Guy:I think it’s a disgrace, what is happening to our country, our democracy, and the people that you put in office, to be honest, fair, and do what is right.
Byard Duncan:It’s hard enough to be a public servant for decades, Sheryl says, but to get thrust under a hostile microscope by people who don’t understand how you keep their democracy humming, it’s too much.
Shereen Marisol…:That’s reporter, Byard Duncan. After nearly seven years at Reveal, Byard recently moved to ProPublica where he works as an engagement reporter. The people who certify elections used to have one of the most mundane and bureaucratic positions in politics. Not anymore.
Speaker 14:It’s just totally bizarre, nuts, crazy. People are losing their minds.
Shereen Marisol…:No election office is too small for the big lie. That’s next on Reveal.
Speaker 15:Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program to bring you a special bulletin-
Jim Briggs:From the Center for Investigative Reporting, this is Jim Briggs-
Fernando Aruta:And Fernando Arruda.
Jim Briggs:We’re the sound designers behind Reveal.
Fernando Aruta:Each week, we create an album of regional music for every single episode.
Jim Briggs:We like to think thematically and create music that will help listeners understand the story.
Fernando Aruta:It’s all available for download. You can find it at revealnews.bandcamp.com. Thanks for listening.
Shereen Marisol…:From the center for investigative reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Shereen Marisol Meraji in for Al Letson.
Speaker 18:We begin with another breaking news story in the fight over votes in Wayne county. President Trump has just withdrawn his-
Speaker 19:Stop voter fraud.
Shereen Marisol…:It’s November of 2020, the day after the presidential election, and dozens of people, most of them Republicans are trying to get into Detroit’s TCF Convention Center. They’re shouting. They’re banging on the glass walls, and they are upset by false rumors that poll watchers are being illegally turned away. All the while, poll workers inside are still counting absentee ballots
Speaker 19:Stop voter fraud. Stop voter fraud.
Branden Snyder:People banging on the doors, causing havoc, creating distractions to stop the process.
Shereen Marisol…:Branden Snyder is a local community organizer, and he’d been at the TCF Center earlier. He was keeping an eye on the situation. A majority of Detroiters vote Democrat. The city is almost 80% black, but the protestors.
Branden Snyder:These were mostly white folks who were coming in to the city, who were inspecting the votes of black voters. And these were mostly people who weren’t Detroiters.
Shereen Marisol…:At this moment, Biden’s on pace to win Michigan, but he won’t win it without Wayne County. The drama in Detroit drags on for two weeks, then it shifts to what’s called the board of canvasers. There’s a board like this for every county in Michigan. Each one is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats. It’s usually this bureaucratic formality, they review voter rolls and ballot counts. They sign off on the results. But Trump is trying to sow doubt about the vote. So the board becomes this huge national story. And when they finally meet, the Republican members say, they still aren’t sure the results in some precincts are accurate. So they vote not to certify the election. And that unleashes a barrage of outrage from the public who say, Republicans are disenfranchising the county’s black voters.
Speaker 18:You are a disgrace as it relates to the ability to have a free and impartial election in this nation.
Speaker 20:I’m a sixth generation Michigander. It is my house you have trashed today. This is a shameful moment in our history.
Speaker 21:There’s no evidence of voter fraud or irregularities. It’s plain and simple. You are suppressing the black and brown vote.
Shereen Marisol…:One of the Republicans who votes not to certify is Monica Palmer. As the public hearing continues, a Democrat pulls Palmer aside and says, state democratic officials have agreed to an audit of the precincts that she has questions about. So when they come back to the meeting, they’ve got a deal. The Republicans will agree to certify the election and the Democrats will agree to an audit of the results.
Speaker 22:We begin with a stunning reversal. The Wayne County board of canvasers voting to certify this month’s election results after a long and-
Shereen Marisol…:There was no meaningful fraud in Michigan, but some Republicans who voted to certify the 2020 election, they paid a price. For Monica Palmer, the clock started ticking the moment she voted, yes. Reveals, Trey Bundy, has the story.
Trey Bundy:Five months after she certifies the election, Monica Palmer walks into The Token Lounge. It’s a rock and roll bar just outside of Detroit. She’s there for a meeting of local Republicans. A guy named David Dudenhoefer asked her to come.
David Dudenhoef…:That was one of our bigger meetings. I think we had close to 75, 80, somewhere in there.
Trey Bundy:At the time, Dudenhoefer was the chair of his local GOP committee. He was one of the people who put Palmer on the canvasing board in the first place. He says he can’t prove it, but he thinks the 2020 election was rigged. He tells me that Palmer failed Republicans by bowing to pressure from Democrats.
David Dudenhoef…:Saying a derelict of duty is really harsh if there’s a, I don’t want to say a nicer way to put that, but I mean, it’s like, this is what we put you there for.
Trey Bundy:I watched a video of this meeting.
Speaker 24:One nation. One [inaudible]. Individual-
Trey Bundy:Picture tall bar chairs and round tables on a black and white checkerboard dance floor in a dark empty stage at the back. Dudenhoefer starts things off with a prayer.
David Dudenhoef…:[inaudible] bless our deliberations tonight that they may get glory to you. We ask this in Jesus name.
Speaker 24:Amen.
Trey Bundy:Then a call to action.
David Dudenhoef…:We’re so focused. And we’re hearing from so many leaders, “Regroup. Let’s get focused on 2022. Hey, if we don’t focus on what happened in 2020 and straighten that out, you can forget 2022 or 2028, 2030, because right now, tens of millions of Americans feel like these elections are rigged.”
Trey Bundy:Then it’s Palmer’s turn.
Monica Palmer:I’m a canvasser.
Trey Bundy:She’s in a green summer dress and flip flops. And she gets right to the point.
Monica Palmer:I didn’t vote yes because they were terrorizing me on a Zoom chat. That yes vote was because I believed that we would get the audit to get the right answers.
Trey Bundy:As she speaks, she’s scanning the room for eye contact. Along with David Dudenhoefer, there’s another committee chair in the room, Shane Trejo. Palmer knows he’s not happy with her. The day after she certified the election, he texted her to say she should stay out of Republican politics. Dudenhoefer and Trejo have the power to take her off the board of canvasers.
Monica Palmer:Now, I will take the heat. I was a little off focus because of the pressure that was coming on the Zoom call.
Trey Bundy:She says she didn’t want to certify the election, but that legally, she had no choice.
Monica Palmer:The only thing that the board of canvasers has the authority to do is to compare the statement of voters, the number of ballots that were received versus the number of ballots that were tallied, and to make any mathematical corrections.
Trey Bundy:Of the 174,000 absentee ballots cast in Detroit, only 17 were found to be questionable. But Palmer tells the group that when it was time to certify, the results look like, in her words, “a bag of crap.” She says the law needs to change, so that canvasers don’t have to sign off on elections they have questions about, and she addresses Shane Trejo directly.
Monica Palmer:And Shane, as you guys are moving forward legislation, does it make sense that I have to certify something that I don’t… If I get a bag of crap, I have to say, it’s a good bag of crap. My hands are bound by the law.
Trey Bundy:Dudenhoefer told me her explanation wasn’t enough.
David Dudenhoef…:You were willing to compromise your beliefs, your principles, and your standards for a promise of something down the road when that should have been done right there. That should have been done before you change any vote. If you had issues and you could point to those issues, it was your responsibility to see that those issues were worked out and changed to your satisfaction before you change your vote, not after.
Trey Bundy:When it comes time for Dudenhoefer, Trejo and their colleagues to renominate Monica Palmer, they decline, effectively kicking her off the board of canvasers. I spoke to Monica Palmer, but she chose not to go on the record. So everything you’re hearing from her today is from public appearances she made after the election. A few weeks after she’s kicked off the board, Palmer goes on the Paul W. Smith Show, a Detroit radio program to tell her side of the story.
Paul W. Smith:Were you surprised that you were not reappointed?
Monica Palmer:Highly surprised. I’ve made it publicly clear many times that I intended to continue serving on the board of canvasers if given that opportunity.
Trey Bundy:She describes a Republican party that turned on her for certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
Monica Palmer:This is exactly what it looks like. There are people within the state party who are getting rid of any canvaser that isn’t pulling the line of we need to stop everything. What other motive would there be?
Trey Bundy:Guys like David Dudenhoefer and Shane Trejo don’t usually get a lot of attention, but as heads of their local Republican committees, they get to shape the election board in Wayne County. Dudenhoefer was a casino card dealer and managed bars before he got into political activism 15 years ago. He ran for Congress in 2020, but he didn’t win. Shane Trejo used to host a podcast called Blood Soil and Liberty with a member of a white nationalist group. Just for context, Blood and Soil was a Nazi slogan during the Third Reich. Then there’s another guy, William Rowerdink. He was convicted of one of the largest financial fraud schemes in Michigan’s history. These are the people who kicked Monica Palmer off the board of canvasers, Her replacement, Robert Boyd. He says he believes the 2020 election results were not accurate and that he would not have certified the election. He fits a profile of new Republican election officials in other counties.
Trey Bundy:So the question is who can protect the integrity of these boards? Under Michigan law, when it’s time to appoint board members, local party leaders, like Dudenhoefer submit three names to the county commission. Then the commission decides which one gets on the board. I thought the commissioners of Wayne County would reject someone like Robert Boyd, since all but one of them are Democrats.
Speaker 28:There are two items listed, dated September 9th from the Wayne County clerk, Kathy M. Garrett, requesting commission approval of one of three Republican nominees to the Wayne County board of canvasers.
Trey Bundy:In September, 2021, the Wayne County commission meets to vote on board’s appointment. Alicia Bell chairs the meeting. The lone Republican commissioner, Terry Marecki makes the nomination.
Terry Marecki:So with that being said, I will put forward the name of Rob Boyd.
Trey Bundy:Now it’s the Democrats turn. Remember, this is a public meeting, a chance for voters to better understand who administers their elections, how they get that power, and what their motives are. But instead.
Alicia Bell:Thank you, commissioner. That was the motion. Is their a second? Is there a second? Hearing none, the motion dies for lack of a second. Thank you, commissioner. Next item please.
Trey Bundy:Nothing. No statements, no debate. The whole thing is over in minutes. You could look at this and think, okay, the Democrats don’t like this candidate, probably because he doesn’t believe Joe Biden won the election, so they don’t even bring his name to a vote, and are effectively killing his chances of being appointed. But that’s not how the system works. By law, if the commission doesn’t appoint someone, the county clerk can go ahead and do it herself, and that’s what happened.
Speaker 14:It’s just totally bizarre, nuts, crazy. People are losing their minds, the big lie.
Trey Bundy:Tim Killeen has been a Wayne County commissioner for 15 years. And he’s the only one of the 15 commissioners who would talk to me. He says he regrets not speaking up during the meeting and grilling Robert Boyd in public.
Tim Killeen:I wanted an opportunity to extract a few pounds of flesh, put the name in nomination, go after the individual. Do you understand what your oath of office is? Do you understand what your job is? Do you intend to violate your oath of office in this position? And really trot him through that.
Trey Bundy:Killeen says he was resigned to the fact that the commission can’t just reject nominees and ask for new ones they like better.
Tim Killeen:We do our thing. The name comes forward. I can walk out of that meeting going, “That person’s a moron,” but I have a magisterio duty too under the law, but I really can’t stop it. We as a commission can’t stop it.
Trey Bundy:So now, Robert Boyd is a Wayne County canvaser, and will help administer the next election. I spoke to him briefly, but he declined to be interviewed. So what’s at stake here? If the GOP is packing canvasing boards with people who might refuse to certify any election they lose, where does that leave our democracy? I asked David Dudenhoefer about this, and whether he believes in a democracy where the majority rules.
David Dudenhoef…:If we got 300 million Americans and the majority of them decide to make cannibalization legal, and now we can just start eating each other, I mean, does that make it right?
Trey Bundy:I guess the question is, is democracy what we want? Because if we do, then that means every person has an equal voice, every vote is equal, and whoever gets the most votes leads the country. Now, is that the type of democracy that you’re interested in?
David Dudenhoef…:Well, the type of democracy I’m interested in is where the individual liberties are protected always, and under a straight democracy, that would come into question. So I’d have to say no.
Trey Bundy:Republicans have now placed new election officials on canvasing boards in eight of Michigan’s largest counties. At least half of them have cast doubt on the 2020 election.
Shereen Marisol…:That’s Reveal’s, Trey Bundy, and he joins me now. Hi Trey.
Trey Bundy:Hi Shereen.
Shereen Marisol…:All right. So clearly, there’s this purge going on. And the attempt to overthrow the presidential election, that did not end in 2020. So how worried do we need to be about the integrity of the next election, 2024?
Trey Bundy:That’s been on my mind too. So we talked with a guy named Lawrence Norden about it. He’s an elections expert at the Brennan Center at NYU. He spent the last 17 years looking at election security in the US.
Lawrence Norden:I would say in some ways, we are in unchartered territory, certainly in modern history when it comes to election administration.
Trey Bundy:So one of his key points gets right to what we’ve been talking about today, that these sort of mundane duties that we’re always just quietly carried out by public servants aren’t so mundane anymore. And that that could create real problems.
Lawrence Norden:These races that we normally don’t pay a lot of attention to are more important than usual, and it’s really critical that the public understands how important they may be.
Trey Bundy:On top of that, long time election officials are leaving their jobs because of stress and threats of violence.
Lawrence Norden:This is happening all over the country, and I think it’s very dangerous for American democracy.
Shereen Marisol…:And I hear all of that, but the thing that I’m really trying to wrap my head around is could one or two local officials in a small county in Michigan, could one or two people really overturn a national election?
Trey Bundy:Not by themselves, no, but they can help. Can I walk you through a hypothetical?
Shereen Marisol…:Please.
Trey Bundy:Okay. Again, just a hypothetical. Let’s say the 2024 presidential election plays out like 2020 did.
Shereen Marisol…:So we’ve got Biden versus Trump again. Election night, Joe Biden looks like he’s about to win.
Trey Bundy:Yep. But it’s close. And in swing states, Biden’s vote margin depends on the votes in the biggest counties.
Shereen Marisol…:Like Wayne County, which is overwhelmingly democratic. It also has a lot of black voters.
Trey Bundy:Right. And Republican canvasers could use false allegations of election fraud as an excuse not to certify the election.
Shereen Marisol…:But what I want to know is what happens next. This is really the key question for me. Where do we go from excuses to overturning elections, or the possibility of that happening?
Trey Bundy:Okay. So we asked the Michigan secretary of state’s office about it. If the county fails to certify an election, then it goes to the state election board. If the state board refuses to certify, the courts would get involved and compel them to certify the election. And that’s their duty by law. But the process can take weeks, and if that happens, Norden says he sees a real danger.
Lawrence Norden:It provides an opportunity to muddy the waters on what really happened in an election, provides the opportunity for more time for litigation to try to encourage state legislatures to step in to try to prevent a certification of results that that side doesn’t like.
Trey Bundy:So he’s describing a scenario where disputes over county election results can create enough chaos and enough confusion that the election is actually taken out of the hands of voters and a partisan legislature decides the outcome.
Shereen Marisol…:All right, Trey. Last question. How do we avoid this chaos next time around? Is it possible?
Trey Bundy:The integrity of our elections has all always depended in part on officials who respect the norms, who respect the will of the voters, no matter what the outcome. And Lawrence Norden, he actually has faith that if the voters stay engaged and hold their officials accountable, then democracy will prevail, but that needs to be happening right now. And he gave a warning.
Lawrence Norden:2022 is going to determine to a very large extent who’s running our elections in 2024.
Shereen Marisol…:Well, I hope everybody listening is paying very close attention.
Trey Bundy:I do too.
Shereen Marisol…:Thank you so much for your reporting, Trey.
Trey Bundy:You bet.
Shereen Marisol…:So who’s responding to all this, and how?
Branden Snyder:These are the people who care about throwing out your votes for their personal and political gain.
Shereen Marisol…:That’s next on Reveal.
Speaker 33:I know. I know it’s hard. You wait all week for this podcast and then it’s over, and you find yourself wanting more. Let me make a recommendation. The Reveal newsletter. It goes behind the scenes into how we make and report these stories. Subscribe now at revealnews.org/newsletter.
Shereen Marisol…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Shereen Marisol Meraji, filling in Al Letson.
Speaker 34:Senate bill 294, a bill to amend Michigan election law. 298, a bill to amend Michigan election law. 300, a bill to amend Michigan election law.
Shereen Marisol…:Since the 2020 election, the Michigan state Senate led by Republicans has introduced nearly 40 bills to change its election laws. All of the bills throw up new barriers to voting in advance of the 2024 election, things like scaling back on the use of absentee ballots and introducing stricter voter ID requirements. And the handful of bills that have made it to the governor’s desk have all experienced the same fate.
Speaker 35:This week, Governor Whitmer vetoed another set of election bills. The bills were another attempt by Republican lawmakers to change Michigan’s elections.
Shereen Marisol…:So Republicans have been looking for a workaround.
Speaker 36:Petition to tighten voting requirements, secure my vote needs to collect about 340,000 valid voter signatures over the next six months to certify their piece of legislation.
Shereen Marisol…:Conservative groups are using this petition process because it allows lawmakers to pass a bill without the governor’s approval. If they gather all of the signatures they need from voters, the petition goes to the Republican led legislature for a vote. Between the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, the number of big lie supporters in key positions at the local and state level, and the petition drive to push restrictions on voting, it can all start to feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole for those who want to make elections more accessible and ensure that everyone’s vote is counted.
Branden Snyder:The slow erosion is real, where people are like, well, why bother voting?
Shereen Marisol…:That’s Branden Snyder again. We heard from him earlier in the show. He’s the co-executive director of Detroit Action, which is a local community activist group that focuses on economic and social justice for working-class Detroiters. After 2020, Branden added one more thing to that list, elections.
Branden Snyder:If we didn’t do that, then our people wouldn’t be aware of like when, how the system operates and how power operates in the arena. And then two, how do we respond?
Shereen Marisol…:When I spoke to Branden, he was inside a warm car on a snowy Detroit afternoon. Hey Branden.
Branden Snyder:Hey, what up do, as we say in Detroit. Thanks for having me.
Shereen Marisol…:So there’s just a lot going on in Michigan. What is that like for you as an organizer?
Branden Snyder:It’s a challenge because the work that Trump has done and the work that the right has done to delegitimize voting isn’t just something that is to appeal to his base. It’s also chipping away at the trust and the integrity from our base as well. We organize people who have been burned by the system, people who are formally incarcerated, young people, people who are tenants and people who’ve been evicted or foreclosed on. And we use elections as an opportunity to one, hold people accountable, hold our elected officials accountable, but two, to offer up what could be for our community to imagine that another world is possible through this process.
Branden Snyder:So for us, what we’ve had to do is take more steps to make sure that our people are aware that this process is happening, are aware that there are these inside players and how they engage in a system. And then also, connected back to our housing and jobs fights, that these are the people who stand in the way of us having tenant protections. These are the people who care about throwing out your votes for their personal and political gain. And so having to illustrate that takes a lot of work. And it also means that we have to do more and be more vigilant, because the right is a step ahead of us knowing that they’re building candidate pipelines to recruit and place people in these, what used to be traditionally ceremonial seats.
Shereen Marisol…:Branden, what did you learn from 2020 that you’re now applying to 2024?
Branden Snyder:2020 just taught me all these things are connected. It’s not a coincidence that January 6th popped off and it had a bunch of Michigan folks at the Capitol. It’s not a coincidence that these sort of right wing Michigan folks were at the TCF Center, and that was sort of a highlight of the stop the steal sort of movement during that week. And it’s not a coincidence that all that stuff happened just a few months after folks tried to storm Michigan’s Capitol and kidnap our governor. So thinking about all those things and knowing that they’re not unrelated also reminds us that our movement has to be vigilant and it also has to be mindful that it’s bigger than just one election.
Shereen Marisol…:Is this defense on a chess board? Are they playing chess? Are they playing by chess rules, and you’re just a couple of moves behind, or is this just some other sport all together where there are no rules and they’re just being made up on the fly?
Branden Snyder:Yeah. Terrible analogies. But it’s like, we’re playing pick up basketball and they’re not even responding to any of the actual files, or like we got the rules out there and it’s like, whatever, we don’t actually need to follow any of those.
Shereen Marisol…:We’re going to travel. We’re going to throw elbows in people’s faces. Flagrantly fouling people.
Branden Snyder:If you win, it doesn’t matter. You score more points than us, it doesn’t even matter.
Shereen Marisol…:Well, I’m sure that everybody listening to this is feeling so positive about the future and hopeful. I know that this conversation scared me a little bit, so.
Branden Snyder:It shouldn’t scare folks. It should just get us… I hope that it doesn’t scare folks. I hope that it actually gets us aligned and thinking about this stuff is happening. Our people are resilient. Our people are resilient. Our people are strong. And then I think what it takes is also making sure that people don’t see themselves as isolated individual actors. If it’s up to you solo to solve this and hold it all in one hand, then no, that’s a lot. But if it’s up to you as a part of a community, then you know that you ain’t got to do everything. There are people who got your back.
Shereen Marisol…:Branden, thank you so much for taking the time, sitting in your car in the cold, in Detroit, to do this with me, to have this conversation. I really appreciate it.
Branden Snyder:No. I appreciate you having me. This has been really a really dope conversation. Thank you.
Shereen Marisol…:Democracy is under threat all over the world, and the United States is definitely not immune. Here at Reveal, we’re going to keep following this story, because unfortunately, it’s not going away.
Shereen Marisol…:Our lead producer this week is Najib Aminy, Byard Duncan, and Trey Bundy also produced this show. It was edited by Brett Myers, Andy Donahue, and Casey Miner. Thanks to Jay Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan, Christopher Thomas at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Candace Fortman and Sarah Alvarez of Outlier Media. Thanks also to Queena Kim. Victoria Baranski is our general counsel. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda. Our post-production team this week also includes Jess Alvarenga, Steven Rascon, and Catherine Styer Martinez. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor in chief. And our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado Lightning.
Shereen Marisol…:Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Shereen Marisol Meraji. It’s been a really great time hanging with you all. I hope they invite me back. And remember, there’s always more to the story.
Speaker 37:If you like what we do and you want to help, well, it’s pretty simple. Just write us a review on Apple Podcast. It’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Just open the Apple Podcast app on your phone, search for reveal, then scroll down to where you see write a review. And there, tell them how much you love the host. Your review makes it easier for listeners to find us, and well, it really does make a difference. And if you do it, you will get a personal thank you from me right now. Not him. You. Yes, you, thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Right.
Speaker 38:From PRX.

Najib Aminy is a producer for Reveal. Previously, he was an editor at Flipboard, a news aggregation startup, and helped guide the company’s editorial and curation practices and policies. Before that, he spent time reporting for newspapers such as Newsday and The Indianapolis Star. He is the host and producer of an independent podcast, "Some Noise," which is based out of Oakland, California, and was featured by Apple, The Guardian and The Paris Review. He is a lifelong New York Knicks fan, has a soon-to-be-named kitten and is a product of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. Aminy is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Byard Duncan is a reporter and producer for  engagement and collaborations for Reveal. He manages Reveal’s Reporting Networks, which provide more than 1,000 local journalists across the U.S. with resources and training to continue Reveal investigations in their communities. He also helps lead audience engagement initiatives around Reveal’s stories and assists local reporters in elevating their work to a national platform. In addition to Reveal, Duncan’s work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The California Sunday Magazine and Columbia Journalism Review, among other outlets. He was part of Reveal’s Behind the Smiles project team, which was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2019. He is the recipient of two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a National Headliner Award, an Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, and two first-place awards for feature storytelling from the Society of Professional Journalists and Best of the West. Duncan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Trey Bundy is a reporter for Reveal, covering youth. After beginning his career at the San Francisco Chronicle, he joined The Bay Citizen, where he covered child welfare, juvenile justice, education and crime. His work also has appeared in The New York Times, SF Weekly, The Huffington Post, the PBS NewsHour, Planet magazine and other news outlets. He has won three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2009, he won the national Hearst Journalism Award for article of the year. Bundy has a bachelor's degree in journalism from San Francisco State University. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Brett Myers is a senior radio editor for Reveal. His work has received more than 20 national honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award, four nationalEdward R. Murrow Awards and multipleThird Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Competition awards. Before joining Reveal, he was a senior producer at Youth Radio, where he collaborated with teenage reporters to file stories for "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Marketplace." 

Prior to becoming an audio producer, Myers trained as a documentary photographer and was named one of the 25 best American photographers under the age of 25. He loves bikes, California and his family. Before that, he was an independent radio producer and worked with StoryCorps, Sound Portraits and The Kitchen Sisters. Myers is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Andy Donohue is the executive editor for projects for Reveal. He’s edited Reveal’s investigations into the treatment of migrant children in government care, Amazon’s labor practices, rehab work camps and sexual abuse in the janitorial industry. He’s been on teams that have twice been Pulitzer Prize finalists and have won Investigative Reporters and Editors, Edward R. Murrow, Online News Association, Third Coast International Audio Festival, Gerald Loeb, Sidney Hillman Foundation and Emmy awards. He previously helped build and lead Voice of San Diego, served on the IRE board for eight years and is an alumnus of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. Donohue is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Casey Miner is an award-winning narrative audio editor, producer, and writer who's worked with outlets including Wondery, Reveal, 70 Million, The Stoop, NPR, Slate, Pop-Up Magazine, and Mother Jones. She has led creative teams for Al Jazeera and KALW; taught audio production and narrative structure at the University of California, Berkeley; and launched and hosted The Specialist, a podcast about work we don't think about and the people who do it. Projects she's worked on have been recognized by the Peabody Awards, the Emmy Awards, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. She is also a founding member of the Editors Collective, where she trains new editors and connect them with others in the audio storytelling industry.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Nikki Frick is the associate editor for research and copy for Reveal. She previously worked as a copy editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and held internships at The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and Washingtonpost.com. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was an American Copy Editors Society Aubespin scholar. Frick is based in Milwaukee.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is the sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. A composer and multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the scoring, recording, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He co-founded a film scoring boutique called Manhattan Composers Collective and worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio geared toward media and ad spots. Arruda worked with clients such as Marvel and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck + Company, Buck and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles such as Krychek, Dark Inc., the New York Arabic Orchestra and Art&Sax. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker.” Arruda has scored extensively for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which have premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. Arruda is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is an associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Kathryn Styer Martínez

Kathryn Styer Martínez (she/ella) is a production assistant for Reveal. She studies audio and photojournalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She is also a Greater Good Science Center reporting fellow, focusing on Latino well-being.

Martínez was the 2020-21 Toni Randolph reporting fellow at Minnesota Public Radio, the 2019-20 New Economy Reporting Project fellow and the former director of KGPC-LP FM, Peralta Community Radio. Her work has appeared in El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, MPR News, National Public Radio, Outside Online, Talk Poverty, New Life Quarterly and Making Contact.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Raza studies and political science from San Francisco State University.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Shereen Marisol Meraji

Shereen Marisol Meraji is an audio producer and reporter who has told stories with sound for twenty years. Meraji helped create NPR’s critically acclaimed Code Switch podcast, which she also co-hosted. In 2020, Apple Podcasts named Code Switch its first-ever show of the year. As a founding member the Code Switch team, Meraji has reported on race, racism and racial identity formation since 2013 with a particular focus on Latino issues. She’s currently a Nieman Fellow working alongside a cohort of 21 brilliant journalists spending an academic year at Harvard focusing on, “some of the most urgent issues facing the industry, ranging from racial justice to disinformation.” In July 2022 Meraji heads to the University of California, Berkeley where she’ll be a professor of race in journalism, teaching the next generation of audio journalists while continuing to publish her own work. When she’s not telling stories that help us better understand the people we share the planet with, Shereen Marisol Meraji is dancing to salsa music, baking brownies or kicking around a soccer ball.