Deadlocked Wayne County Board of Canvassers fails to certify election results

The 2-2 vote split along party lines

Board deadlocked on certification of Wayne County election results.
Board deadlocked on certification of Wayne County election results.

Detroit – The Wayne County Board of Canvassers is deadlocked on Tuesday with a 2-2 vote on the decision to certify election votes.

UPDATE: In reversal, Wayne County Board of Canvassers reverse vote, unanimously approve certification of election votes

The vote is split with the two Republican members voting not to certify the election and two Democratic members voting to certify. The split means that as of right now, votes have not been certified.

The board decided to move forward with Tuesday’s meeting after the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit to delay the certification.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of Republican challengers, was based on allegations of fraud, surrounding the count at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit.

READ: Michigan Court of Appeals rejects lawsuit requesting delay of election certification in Wayne County

READ: Judge denies GOP lawsuit to halt certification of Detroit election results

The lawsuit was initially denied by a Wayne County judge on Friday, saying that it was “incorrect and not credible.”

Lawyers appealed and were rejected on Monday.

The state Court of Appeals said it wasn’t convinced the Wayne County judge made a mistake by refusing to stop the work of county canvassers. That means efforts to stop the certification of Detroit area votes hit a road block.

Republican challengers observing the counting of absentee ballots at TCF Center claimed fraud in favor of Joe Biden, who won Michigan by more than 140,000 votes. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

“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,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “The people have spoken: Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 140,000 votes. Today’s action is a blatant attempt to undermine the will of the voters. The process, however, will move forward. Under Michigan law, the Board of State of Canvassers will now finish the job and I have every expectation they will certify the results when the job is done.”

The Board of State Canvassers will be conducting a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Statement from Michigan Republican Party chair Laura Cox:

“The people of Michigan deserve to know what happened in Wayne County on Election Day and the days following. I am proud that, due to the efforts of the Michigan Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the Trump Campaign, enough evidence of irregularities and potential voter fraud was uncovered resulting in the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refusing to certify their election results. This action will allow more time for us to get to the bottom of these deeply troubling irregularities. The people of Michigan deserve fair, open and transparent elections, and we will continue to fight for just that.”

The Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement on behalf of chair Lavora Barnes:

“In an outrageous display of partisan posturing, the two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to certify the election results. Monica Palmer and William Hartmann have chosen to tarnish their personal legacy by picking up the GOP banner of making allegations without any evidence. For the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to buy into conspiracy theories and completely disregard the will of the voters in Michigan is not only shameful but a complete dereliction of duties.

"It was made clear by the comments during the meeting by Palmer and Hartmann, that they have no true understanding of the task they have been charged with and zero understanding of Michigan statutes governing recounts. This action does away with a long and proud history of Wayne County Board of Canvassers acting in a truly bipartisan fashion, protecting the sanctity of the vote and instilling confidence in Wayne County residents that their votes were indeed counted and counted correctly. Which is exactly what happened this year. The actions of Palmer and Hartman disrespects and disregards the voters of Wayne County, the incredibly hard work of the dedicated poll workers and clerks of Wayne County all in the name of partisan showboating.

"Before public comment concluded and the business of the meeting was done this evening, Laura Cox, Chair of the MIGOP released a statement taking credit for persuading the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refusing to certify the election results. This just confirms that this is nothing more than political showboating based on partisan positioning. Even during the meeting, Palmer and Hartmann conceded that their actions would not impact any results.

"While bringing shame on themselves and MIGOP leadership, Palmer and Hartmann have now shown us they are willing to violate the oath they took when they were appointed to the Board of Canvassers.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib:

"The Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refusal to certify the November general election results is nothing but a racist and partisan attempt to disenfranchise voters. It’s plain and simple - the Republican members abdicated their role and put politics above their duty to our residents. Suggesting that all of Wayne County can be certified, EXCEPT for Detroit, is horrifyingly racist and a subversion of our democracy.

"Members Monica Palmer and William Hartmann will live in infamy for their flagrant racism and disregard for democracy. Their decision will delay the voices of Wayne County residents from being heard and cost Wayne County taxpayers more money, and will only fuel the baseless attempts to sow doubt about the results of the election. This is a shameful day for our county and state.”

Statement from John James, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate:

"The vote today affirms the concerns of many Michiganders that there were significant irregularities and abnormalities in Michigan on Election Day. As a combat veteran, I put my life on the line to help secure free and fair elections for the People of Iraq. I am duty-bound to exhaust every reasonable remedy to help secure free and fair elections for the People of Michigan.

"I applaud the Wayne County Board of Canvassers for their bravery in the face of unbelievable pressure to ignore inconvenient truths that threaten our democracy. This unprecedented vote shows the serious issues that underlie the processes that happened on election day. We will continue to investigate all issues pertaining to the election and work to ensure that the bedrock of our democracy-- free and fair elections-- are protected. We must restore public trust in elections by undertaking a careful and thorough review of the process. We take the integrity of our elections at home as seriously as we take interference with our election from abroad.

“Today’s Canvassers' vote shows that more needs to be done to be sure that the will of the voters is not rounded or approximated but tabulated honestly and accurately. Once this is established, I will, of course, accept the will of the voters.”

Statement from Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans:

"The voters of Wayne County have spoken, but apparently two of the four members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to hear them. Today’s clearly partisan vote by canvassers is a slap in the face to our democratic process. It disenfranchises Wayne County residents who turned out in record numbers – both Democrats and Republicans – to make their voices heard.

"There is much work we need to do in Wayne County to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. First responders need personal protection equipment. Unemployed workers need a hand up. Struggling small businesses need real solutions from their elected leaders. We need to put the silliness of the past months behind us and unite toward a better America for all, an America that uplifts rather than shouts down.

“There has been no proof offered, no evidence of voter fraud uncovered by Republicans that has withstood the impartial eye of our judicial system. The arguments brought by partisan Republicans are specious and have been rejected by level-minded judges in Wayne County and across the country. It is time to respect the rule of law and certify this election. The people’s business awaits."

About the Authors:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.