Michigan GOP again reverses course on certifying election results

Two members of a four-person board in Wayne County, Michigan, tasked with certifying election results have reversed course again following their initial refusal, and then acquiescence to certify results amid accusations of political motivations and racism by Democrats.

Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, the two Republicans on the four-member board of canvassers, originally offered no explanation for why they changed course, but abruptly did Tuesday evening hours after voting against certification of the results.

By Wednesday night, Palmer and Hartmann had signed onto affidavits alleging that they had been pressured to certify the results under a false promise that Democrats would agree to an audit in Detriot, according to the Washington Post, which has reviewed the documents.

“I rescind my prior vote. I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified,” Palmer wrote in an affidavit. Hartmann, according to the paper, signed a similar affidavit.

Prior to signing the document, Palmer told the paper in an interview that she and Hartmann had been concerned about the number of precincts that were not in “balance,” meaning the number of votes tabulated did not match the number of voters who signed in at the polls.

She had also argued this during Tuesday’s meeting.

Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chair Monica Palmer and Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch
Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chair Monica Palmer and Vice Chair Jonathan KinlochAP

“If you don’t have an accurate list of voters to start with, how are you supposed to know what list to tabulate from? We can’t have a tradition of having these unbalanced precincts,” she said during the Tuesday Zoom call.

Later on, she suggested a willingness to certify results for jurisdictions besides Detroit. The offer, coming after her refusal to certify the other results, was panned by Democrats statewide.

People wait in line to get their ballot to vote in Detroit, Michigan.
People wait in line to get their ballot to vote in Detroit, Michigan.AFP via Getty Images

“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,” Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement following the decision.

About two hours before, the two had been lambasted in a heated Zoom call after the board, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, reached a 2-2 deadlock on certifying the results.

President Trump praised the effort in a tweet, writing, “Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!”

Wayne County is a Democratic stronghold, and President-elect Joe Biden carried it by a greater than 2-to-1 margin. He also won the state of Michigan by 146,000 votes.

After Tuesday’s Zoom call technically concluded and the deadlock was announced on certifying the results, it was opened up to the public for comment, and attendees were quick to voice their frustration.

Ned Staebler, a Michigan business owner and poll watcher in the county, decried both Palmer and Hartmann as racist.

“The Trump stain, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have covered yourself in, is going to follow you throughout history,” Staebler said, not mincing words when it came to his views on their decision.

“You will forever be known in southeastern Michigan as two racists who did something so unprecedented that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of black voters in the city of Detroit, because they were ordered to,” he continued, going on to note that the two had no qualms about certifying results in a nearby city that was 95 percent white.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, a prominent local pastor who leads the Detroit NAACP branch, decried the two and their actions as 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!” the reverend said, his voice rising.

Palmer called the experience “heartbreaking,” telling the paper, “I sat in that chair for two hours listening to people attack me” as a racist, while adding that her intentions were the opposite.

Jonathan Kinloch, one of the two Democrats on the panel, argued during Tuesday’s meeting that the discrepancies were caused by “human error,” and went on to call it “reckless and irresponsible” to not certify the results.

Speaking to the newspaper, he argued that his GOP colleague had no reason to feel misled, saying that the two had discussed the matter on Tuesday and Wednesday and that she understood they needed to write a letter to formally request an audit.

Palmer put it differently in her interview, saying that while there “wasn’t mob rule,” there was certainly pressure to certify, which she says she didn’t succumb to.

She only went forward, she argued, because of the promised audit.

As she wrote in her affidavit, “I voted not to certify, and I still believe this vote should not be certified. Until these questions are addressed, I remain opposed to certification of the Wayne County results.”

She went on to express how she felt being slammed for her stance on certifying, writing, “After the vote, my Democratic colleagues chided me and Mr. Hartmann for voting not to certify.

After that, she explained, “the public comment period began and dozens of people made personal remarks against me and Mr. Hartmann. The comments made accusations of racism and threatened me and members of my family. The public comment continued for over two hours and I felt pressured to continue the meeting without a break.”

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