The two Republicans on Michigan’s Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially refused on Tuesday to certify the county’s election results, which show former Vice President Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump.
But they suddenly reversed their decision after hours of phone calls from the public lambasting them for trying to exclude predominantly Black Detroit from the certification.
The board first deadlocked at 2-2 with the Republicans voting against certifying the results and Democrats voting to certify. It would have been an unprecedented move by a local board to refuse to certify an election result as part of a scheme to overturn the outcome.
This ultimately aborted move came as Trump continues to falsely claim that voter fraud cost him the election without providing any evidence or specific, provable allegations of fraud. Trump has filed over 20 lawsuits challenging the election results, with disastrous results so far. He has repeatedly lost in court because he can present no evidence of fraud.
The two Republican board members ― Monica Palmer and William Hartmann ― initially stated that their refusal to certify Wayne County’s results was due to minor discrepancies in absentee poll book matches, according to The Detroit News. Similar minor discrepancies have never stopped the local board from certifying elections in the past.
“There is no reason under the sun for us to have not certified this election,” Board Vice Chairman Jonathan Kinloch, one of the board’s two Democrats, said. “I believe that politics made its presence known here today.”
After the initial vote, the board of canvassers heard from angry members of the public, who accused the two Republicans of racism for trying to exclude votes from Detroit, which is approximately 80% Black.
Palmer, one of the Republicans on the Wayne County board, initially suggested that she would only certify “communities other than Detroit” that are within the county — suburbs that are predominantly white.
Hartmann, meanwhile, has shared racist memes, including about Detroit residents, and has promoted Trump’s disproven conspiracies about voter fraud on his social media accounts.
“As the process moves to the state level, eligible Black voters and others across Wayne County, who overcame tremendous obstacles to vote this season, are being rendered, second-class citizens,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.
Leading Michigan Democrats denounced the Republicans’ initial refusal to certify the results before they changed their votes.
“In refusing to approve the results of the election in Wayne County, the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers have placed partisan politics above their legal duty to certify the election results,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) said in a statement Tuesday night.
After hearing from the public, Palmer and Hartmann reversed their votes and the board unanimously certified the county’s election results while also calling on Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) to conduct a review of poll book discrepancies.
While this episode ultimately ended with the votes upheld, it demonstrates a Republican Party, from the president on down to local officials, willing to discard the election results and steal the 2020 election, specifically by invalidating votes cast by Black Americans.
The initial action by the GOP board of canvassers members was part of a scheme, promoted by Trump’s campaign, involving local and state-level Republicans on local canvassing and elections boards refusing to certify election results in jurisdictions where Biden won. In doing so, they believe, they could throw the certification decision to Republican-controlled state legislatures that could then choose Trump as the winner, even though he lost the popular vote to Biden by almost 3%. Republican legislative leaders have, however, said that they will play no role in the theft of the election.
Trump praised the initial refusal to certify the Wayne County results in an inaccurate tweet claiming that the certification for statewide Michigan results had been refused.
“Wow!” Trump tweeted. “Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!”
The board reversed the decision six minutes later.