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

Susan J. Demas

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 Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told the Michigan Advance on Thursday 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,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for Benson, the state’s chief elections officer.

Detroit, which is 80% Black, is Wayne County’s largest city. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, won Michigan over President Donald Trump by about 150,000 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. Under Michigan’s winner-take-all system, Biden is to be awarded all 16 electoral votes.

On Tuesday, the Wayne County canvassers had a contentious meeting in which the boards two Republicans, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, initially voted not to certify Wayne County election results. The board deadlocked at 2-2, with the two Democrats, Jonathan Kinloch and Allen Wilson, voting in favor.

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

Dozens of residents spoke out against the move and the story spread over social media. Later in the evening, the Republicans changed their minds and voted to certify. As part of a compromise, the board directed the Secretary of State’s office to do a comprehensive audit of precincts that had minor discrepancies in vote totals.

Now Palmer and Hartmann are changing their minds again, adding to the confusion.

In an affidavit released Wednesday night, Palmer said “the Wayne County election had serious process flaws which deserve investigation. I continue to ask for information to assure Wayne County voters that these elections were conducted fairly and accurately.”

Similarly, Hartmann said in an affidavit: “Late in the evening, I was enticed to agree to certify based on the promise that a full and independent audit would take place. I would not have agreed to the certification but for the promise of an audit.”

The Associated Press reported on Thursday said that Trump reached out to Palmer and Hartmann on Tuesday evening “after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support.”

Detroit NAACP chief: ‘We’re not going to let them steal the election’

He also celebrated the first vote on Twitter, as did Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox and several other Trump allies in quick succession.

Meanwhile, an ethics complaint was filed against Palmer in October for her alleged conflict of interest as founder and president of Taxpayers for Grosse Pointe Schools and her service as Wayne County Board of Canvassers’ chair. 

Tom Bruetsch, a Wayne County lawyer filed the complaint and has argued that her involvement in the political action committee is incompatible with her public office. He told Michigan Advance on Thursday that Palmer “should have abstained” from Tuesday’s certification vote because of the conflict. The Wayne County Ethics Board is reviewing the complaint.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP president, and several Wayne County voters on Wednesday continued to call out Republicans for trying to subvert the will of voters.

Courts could step in if there’s a deadlock to certify Biden’s election

“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not,’” said Anthony. “This latest election debacle occurring in Wayne County, in the city of Detroit, is another example of people trying to take away from those who have worked hard, voted right, and counted efficiently.”

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has until Monday to certify the election. The board also is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans. If they don’t certify the results — a necessary step so that electors can meet and cast their votes for Biden — that would be the first time in history. The matter likely would be decided in court. 

At 1 p.m. Thursday, a joint House and Senate Oversight panel will convene another hearing on election results, as Cox and several Republicans continue to push unproven allegations of voter irregularities.

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.