Michigan’s largest county has reversed course and unanimously certified its presidential election results after Republicans first blocked the move in a party-line vote that threatened to temporarily stall official approval of Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the state.
The Wayne county board of canvassers acted after their 2-2 tie was condemned by Democrats, election experts and the meeting’s online spectators as a dangerous attempt to overthrow the will of voters.
The board met after days of unsuccessful litigation filed by Republican poll challengers and President Donald Trump’s allies. They claimed fraud during absentee ballot counting at a Detroit convention center but two judges found no evidence and refused to stop the canvassing process.
Biden crushed Trump in Wayne county, a Democratic stronghold, by more than a two-to-one margin and won the state by 146,000 votes, according to unofficial results.
The canvassers first rejected certification of the Detroit-area vote with a tie. Monica Palmer, a Republican, said poll books in certain Detroit precincts were out of balance. In response, Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat, said it was “reckless and irresponsible” not to certify the results. “It’s not based upon fraud. It’s absolutely human error,” Kinloch said of any discrepancies. “Votes that are cast are tabulated.”
The board then listened to spectators criticising Palmer and fellow Republican William Hartmann via Zoom during the meeting’s public comment period.
The Reverend Wendell Anthony, a well-known pastor and head of the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called them a “disgrace”.
“You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only ones that are at fault is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans. Shame on you!” Anthony said.
Certification of the election results in each of Michigan’s 83 counties is a step towards statewide certification by the Michigan board of state canvassers.
“Glad to see common sense prevailed in the end,” said Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan. “Thank you to all those citizens who spoke up so passionately. You made the difference!”
The Michigan Democratic party chair, Lavora Barnes, called the initial 2-2 vote tie “blatant racism”.
At least six lawsuits have been filed in Michigan, the latest one landing on Sunday in federal court. But there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the US election.
The issues that Trump’s allies have raised are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots to have been miscast or lost.
The University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, who teaches election law, said certifying results was usually a routine task. “We depend on democratic norms, including that the losers graciously accept defeat. That seems to be breaking down.”.