GOP holds another election hearing, Benson says office ‘on track’ to complete audit 

Drop box for absentee ballots in Detroit | Ken Coleman

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Thursday that her office is “on track” to perform the planned statewide audit of the Nov. 3  general election. 

“This statewide audit will be accompanied by the routine local performance audits that will review the accuracy and process of elections in local communities, as have been carried out following the November 2019 election and May 2020 election,” Benson said. 

Benson’s comment comes after two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers are trying to rescind their vote to certify the county’s presidential election results, but a spokeswoman for Benson said that cannot happen. 

“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote. Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify,” Tracy Wimmer, a Benson spokeswoman, told the Advance earlier Thursday. 

Michigan SOS: There is ‘no legal mechanism to rescind’ Wayne Co. election certification vote

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, won Michigan over President Donald Trump by about 156,000 votes, according to unofficial returns. 

Biden secured about 68% of the votes cast for president in Wayne County and Trump received about 31% of vote in the county. Detroit, which is 80% Black, is Wayne County’s largest city.

Under Michigan’s winner-take-all system, Biden is to be awarded all 16 electoral votes.

In related news, the Associated Press and other outlets reported on Thursday that Trump has invited state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) to the White House on Friday to discuss Michigan election results. 

Trump is widely expected to pressure the Republicans to reject the election results and have the Legislature appoint a Trump slate of electors. Although that’s illegal under Michigan law, many nonpartisan groups and Democratic officials are raising alarm bells that Shirkey and Chatfield are even taking the meeting.

Could the Legislature help hand Trump reelection, even if he loses Michigan?

Nancy Wang is executive director of Voters Not Politicians, which helped lead the 2018 nonpartisan effort to amend Michigan’s Constitution to reform how the state’s congressional and legislative districts are drawn. 

“Senator Shirkey and Representative Chatfield are in dangerous territory. Either they are attempting to overturn the will of Michigan voters, or they are willingly engaging in political theater being orchestrated by the White House. Either way, they are undermining public confidence in fair elections and doing a terrible disservice to all voters,” said Wang.

Benson, a Democrat, was elected in 2018. She previously served as dean of the Wayne State University Law School and wrote a book on how to be an effective secretary of state. Benson said that the audit process is a “proactive, voluntary, and planned action.” 

“This is a typical, standard procedure following election certification, and one that will be carried out in Wayne County and any other local jurisdictions where the data shows significant clerical errors following state certification of the November election,” Benson said. 

“Notably, audits are neither designed to address nor performed in response to false or mythical allegations of “irregularities” that have no basis in fact,” Benson added. “Where evidence exists of actual fraud or wrongdoing, it should be submitted in writing to the Bureau of Elections, which refers all credible allegations to the Attorney General’s office for further investigation.”

In wild meeting, Wayne Co. board certifies Biden as winner after GOP members initially blocked it

On Thursday afternoon, there was a second joint meeting of the state House and Senate oversight committees Republicans convened a rare Saturday session after the Nov. 3 election and subpoenaed the Bureau of Elections after a series of Republicans made unproven allegations of voter irregularities. Several cases have been tossed from court. 

The topic of Wayne County certification was raised briefly in the hearing by state Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland). The body heard from Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons  — a Republican former state House member who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 — and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum — a Democratic former state House member. But they chose not to address election operations other than their own. 

Later in the meeting, Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy provided a report on her county’s election efforts, which have been the subject of a number of right-wing conspiracy theories that have been debunked.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.