Michigan Wayne County Republicans ask to ‘rescind’ their votes certifying election result

Michigan Republicans brag about blocking the certification of election results in Detroit - “The Republican chair of the board, Monica Palmer, literally just said she would be open to certifying the vote in ‘communities other than Detroit,'”. Black people make up 80% of the population of Detroit.

Two Republican Wayne County canvassers have signed affidavits saying they regret their votes Tuesday to certify the Nov. 3 election. They argued it was “intense bullying and coercion” and bad legal advice that forced them to agree to certify the election after they had voted no. 

Canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann have claimed the promises made to them of a “comprehensive audit” of the Nov. 3 election should they certify “will not be fulfilled.”

“I rescind my prior vote to certify Wayne County elections,” Palmer said in an affidavit signed Wednesday night. “I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.”

From left: Member William Hartmann (Rep.), chair person Monica Palmer (Rep.) listen as vice chair Jonathan Kinloch (Dem.) reads the motion to certify the vote with member Allen Wilson (Dem.) during the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meet in Detroit on Nov. 17, 2020.

It’s not clear whether the affidavits have any legal effect on Tuesday’s certification, which moved Wayne County results on to the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers. Even if Palmer and Hartmann were able to rescind their votes, the deadline for Wayne County to certify its results has already passed, in which case any uncertified results would pass on to the state board.

The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday.

She said her decision not to certify was based “strictly on what was in the canvassing results,” which she felt lacked complete and accurate documentation. Not enough had been done between the August primary and Nov. 3 election to fix the city’s unbalanced pollbooks, she said.

“We saw the same problems that we saw in the primary,” Palmer said. “Everybody says that’s just how Detroit elections run. That doesn’t make it right.”

The late night release of the affidavits was followed by an early morning tweet from President Donald Trump:

While Detroit has struggled with election issues for at least 15 years, experts say the unbalanced pollbooks referenced by canvassers Tuesday and also present in the 2016 general election and August primary are not proof of voter fraud and are more a result of human error.

The affidavits follow a long, roller coaster meeting Tuesday, where canvassers were told that 70% of Detroit’s 134 absentee counting boards were out of balance by one to more than four votes.

During Tuesday’s meeting, an elections official said countywide, the precincts were out of balance by a few hundred votes in a county that saw 878,000 votes total on Nov. 3.

The move prompted condemnation from Democratic canvassers Jonathan Kinloch and Allen Wilson and hours of public comment condemning the deadlocked vote as politically motivated and racist, given Detroit is a majority-Black city.

Palmer and Hartmann eventually voted again to certify the results on the condition that a comprehensive audit be conducted on the Wayne County results.

In their affidavits Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann alleged the public comment included threats against their families and that personal information was leaked in the hours after their decision.

They said Wayne County counsel advised them they had to vote that night and that their vote was purely “ministerial,” Palmer and Hartmann alleged.

After the vote, they were informed that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson did not consider the language demanding an audit to be binding.

“I would not have agreed to the certification but for the promise of an audit,” Hartmann said in his affidavit, which appears to be missing at least one page.

At least four lawsuits — including two from the campaign of President Donald Trump — sought to stop the certification of results in Wayne County based on claims of barriers to GOP poll challengers and ballot irregularities at Detroit’s absentee counting boards at the TCF Center.

As of Wednesday morning, all of Michigan’s 83 counties were certified and showed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden roughly 154,000 votes ahead of Trump in Michigan.

City and state officials have refuted claims that GOP challengers were prevented access to ballot counting in Detroit, though at one point additional challengers — both Democratic and Republican —  were not let in because of COVID-19 capacity limits.

Officials also have refuted claims about the city’s ballot counting process, noting that the allegations stemmed from a misunderstanding of how the counting process is supposed to occur.

Out-of-balance poll books —  in which the number of voters in the poll book does not match the ballots cast — is not uncommon and often occurs through human error. But Detroit has had a higher instance of it occurring in part because of the large volumes of ballots it processes.

In August, 72% of Detroit’s poll books were found to be out of balance, a condition that precluded many of the precincts from being used if a recount were requested. The issues prompted the state to send in additional help ahead of the general election, including veteran state elections official Chris Thomas.

Detroit had problems with precinct count mismatches in the November 2016 election. Election officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 59% of precincts in the city during a countywide canvass of vote results with most of the issues involving too many votes.

In both cases, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers still voted to certify the election results despite those unbalanced books.

Credit to Beth LeBlanc of The Detroit News eleblanc@detroitnews.com
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