The Slatest

Two Low-Level Michigan Republicans Give Up on Swinging the Election by Blocking State Certification

A crowd of pro-Trump protesters. One person holds a sign that reads "Arrest the Vote Counters." Another holds a sign that reads "No Audit = No Certification."
Super Trumpy protesters at a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Saturday. Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

The Michigan county elections board that refused to certify the Nov. 3 vote totals Tuesday afternoon, the state deadline to do so, reversed course later that evening after a wave of condemnation from within the state and around the country. The holdup was due to two Republican representatives on the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers engaging in pure election shenanigans. The pair refused to certify the county’s result, regurgitating a claim by President Donald Trump about some vague form of voter fraud in the city of Detroit. Trump and the GOP’s election suspicions have focused, unsurprisingly, on majority Black cities and districts. At one point, Republican board member Monica Palmer motioned to “certify the results in the communities other than the city of Detroit.” The city’s population is three-quarters Black; many of the other surrounding communities are predominantly white. You can see where this is headed.

The intention of the two Michigan Republicans was plain: By forcing a tie, and a failure to certify the single county result, it could prompt the state canvassing board, also split 50-50 between the parties, to similarly refuse to certify the statewide result. What would happen then? We need not look further than the Trump campaign. “If the state board follows suit, the Republican state legislator will select the electors. Huge win for @realDonaldTrump,” Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis tweeted Tuesday.

The move is a naked and galling attempt to subvert the result of the election that Biden won in Michigan by nearly 150,000 votes, in the Electoral College by 74, and by a national popular vote margin now approaching 6 million votes. The other Republican board member, William Hartmann, was unsurprisingly an ardent Trump supporter with a history of social media posts that veered from racist to tin hat conspiracy. When the president got wind of the initial refusal to certify, he declared it “a beautiful thing.”

“The Republican gambit in Detroit was among the starkest examples of how previously routine aspects of the nation’s voting system have been tainted by Mr. Trump’s effort to challenge his defeat, and he appeared to revel in the night’s chaos with celebratory tweets attacking Detroit even after the deadlock ended,” the New York Times notes. “But the reversal by the elections board in Wayne County—which is home to Detroit—showed the limits of what has been, in essence, an effort to disenfranchise large numbers of Americans. The board’s G.O.P. members certified the results only after voters there angrily accused the Republicans of trying to steal their votes.”