Michigan certifies Biden win; a setback for Trump challenge

Elections

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — Michigan election officials on Monday certified Democrat Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state amid President Donald Trump’s brazen attempts to subvert the results of the election.

The Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the results on a 3-0 vote with one abstention. Allies of Trump and losing GOP Senate candidate John James had urged the panel to delay voting for two weeks to audit votes in heavily Democratic Wayne County, home to Detroit.

There was a twist to the routine process this year: there has been a push by Republicans to delay that certification. The Michigan GOP asked the board on Friday to audit Wayne County’s general election results first.

The move is another setback in Trump’s efforts to use unconventional means to undermine the results of the Nov. 3 election and comes even after he made direct overtures to Republican officials in the state by inviting them to the White House last week.

Under Michigan law, Biden claims all 16 electoral votes. Biden won by 2.8 percentage points — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results like Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

In a rare move last week, the Republicans of Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted against certifying the results, before reversing course. One of the Republicans cited concerns about imbalanced poll books in certain precincts of predominantly Black Detroit before changing her vote amid public backlash.

There has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud in Michigan, or in any other state. Federal and state officials from both parties have declared the 2020 election safe and secure, and Michigan’s election staff is recommending the results be certified.

For a delay to happen, two members of the Board of State Canvassers needed to vote against certification. There are always two Republicans and two Democrats on the board. Both Democrats planned to vote to certify the results.

Prior to the vote, Republican board member Norman Shinkle told the Detroit Free Press he was leaning toward a “delay” vote. He said he was concerned about transparency, the election equipment used, and the absentee voting process.

In the meeting, Shinkle voted to abstain from the vote. 

“I need to review the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting from last Tuesday to determine the sufficiency or their certification,” Shinkle said. 

The other Republican on the board, Vice Chair Aaron Van Langevelde, voted to certify but called for an audit.  

“I think any allegation of voter fraud should be taken seriously and investigated. I believe in this case, a post-election audit should be conducted and I believe complaints of election fraud need to be investigated and if found, be prosecuted under the law. The state law is clear that we do not have that authority and other agencies do,” Langevelde said. 

Biden took Wayne County by more than a 2-1 margin and won Michigan by 146,000 votes, according to the unofficial results. 

Michigan Democratic party chair Lavora Barnes sent a letter to the Board of State Canvassers Sunday night urging them to certify the 2020 election. She said in part, “This is a simple but fundamental step. Our system of government draws its power from the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said an audit will happen, but state law prevented that action until after certification.

Though the vote happened Monday afternoon, the meeting itself lasted more than eight hours with more than 500 people in line for public comment. Each person is given a minute and a half to speak after the time limit was shortened from three minutes. 

The overwhelming majority of those who gave public comment said results should be certified. Many clerks and former election officials at the state level spoke, reminding the public a recount or audit can only happen after the board certifies the canvasses of individual counties.

The board also passed a motion to have the legislature look into the election processes. The joint oversight committees have already started doing that to further examine concerns that have been raised.

The Trump campaign released a statement on state certifications:

“Certification by state officials is simply a procedural step. We are going to continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes. Americans must be assured that the final results are fair and legitimate.”

GROUPS PROTEST IN LANSING AHEAD OF CERTIFICATION

Shortly before the meeting got underway around 1 p.m., people waving Trump signs gathered outside the Austin Building in Lansing, which houses the Secretary of State’s Office, for a “Stop the Steal” rally.

The group says it wants fair elections and transparent voting. But another group nearby says that’s exactly what we’re getting.

“We think that Donald Trump won,” said Ali Alexander, organizer of the rally. “We think that there were shenanigans and games.”

It was a small but loud crowd in front of the Austin building in downtown Lansing.

“We want a transparent voting process so that both parties can come together on Jan. 20 and we can go together in peace,” Alexander said. “Right now, that’s not what we’re headed for.”

Many of them planned to speak in front of the Board of Canvassers before the certification.

“We’re going to get into real detail today,” said Chuck Ritchard, the chairman of Oceana County’s board of canvassers. “We have three minutes. That’s all we have: a three-minute shot, and I’m going to hit it.”

The group did not provide proof of an unfair election, but they disagree with the results and wanted an audit.

“I’ve been around this game for a long time,” Ritchard said. “Donald Trump has been the best president ever in my lifetime. I’m 67 years old and I’ve been an activist all my life. Ronald Reagan was great; doesn’t even measure. Abraham Lincoln? Certainly, a stellar guy. No. They don’t compare to Donald Trump.”

A block away was a parade of vehicles supporting the validity of the state’s election.

“I think it’s a shame that the president and Republicans here in the state of Michigan would allow his followers to believe that there was anything that happened in the election, that this election is being stolen from him with no proof, no evidence and really no reason to do that aside from trying to protect the president’s ego,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

Many of the cities being singled out for voter fraud in the country have large numbers of Black voters and that’s a worry for some.

“What it tries to spell out is that Black votes are somehow inferior, somehow inefficient, somehow illegal compared to votes that are outside of the community,” said Branden Snyder, executive director of Detroit Action.

They believe this is delaying the inevitable.

“The reality is the voters decided, this election is over, it wasn’t even close, and they need to certify the results,” Scott said.

Those who disagree are not accepting the results.

“Unless there’s an audit in Michigan, why would I accept something that is super opaque?” said Alexander.

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