It’s worth taking a moment to read Politico’s latest deep dive into the state of Michigan’s Nov. 3, 2020 General Election controversy.
Maybe you have some time over this pandemic-stricken Thanksgiving holiday to recall the historic past few weeks in our beloved state now that we’ve had a moment to digest it all. It’s something many of us watched play out in real time, each day bringing more questions than answers during a crucial moment in our American democracy story.
The state’s Board of Canvassers certified the election results on Monday despite weeks of conspiracy theory and false accusations about ballot counting, specifically in Michigan’s biggest city, Detroit. The Board faced unprecedented pressure to perform its ministerial duty to certify the results. They were met by hundreds of public commenters during an hourslong virtual meeting on Monday, a scene we never dreamed of witnessing even four years ago.
In the end, one Republican lawyer’s decision to simply stick to the law as it is written cemented Michigan’s election outcome, upholding more than five million votes in a record-breaking year for the state’s voter turnout. That lawyer, Aaron Van Langevelde, may have been a no-name Michigan GOP attorney last week. But now he’ll forever be remembered for the Nov. 23, 2020 Board of Canvassers meeting that helped snuff out a nationwide effort to discredit the election.
A lot of the unproven claims about voter fraud came directly from the Michigan Republican Party and President Donald Trump himself. The claims ramped up when it was clear on the day after the election, as ballot counting continued in the state, that Joe Biden would take Michigan’s 16 electorates by a hefty amount of votes -- more than 150,000 by the end of counting.
The official count shows Detroit did play a big role in the election, of course, but it was places like Livonia, Warren, Plymouth Township, Troy, Dearborn and Grand Rapids that buried Trump in the state he had won in 2016.
Here’s a portion of the Politico article that addresses all of the drama from front to back:
The irony of Michigan’s electoral meltdown is that Election Day, in the eyes of veteran clerks and poll workers across the state, was the smoothest it had ever been. Like clockwork, one can always depend on controversies—sometimes mini-scandals—to spring up by noontime on any given Election Day. But not in 2020. There were no documented instances of voter intimidation. No outcry over precincts opening late or closing early. Heck, in the state’s biggest and busiest voting jurisdictions, there were no lines to complain about. The day was eerily uneventful.
Much of this owed to months of tireless preparation by election officials at the state and local level. Of course, it also had something to do with the historic nature of 2020: More than half of Michigan’s voters chose to vote absentee, the result of a new law that predated the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that scared many people away from voting in-person. For this reason, Michiganders were not congratulating themselves when the polls closed on election night. They knew the real gantlet lay ahead.
“You’re talking about election officials implementing new laws, running an election with a 60 percent mail vote, in the middle of a pandemic,” said Chris Thomas, Michigan’s longtime chief elections administrator, a nonpartisan who spent decades working under secretaries of state from both parties. “In terms of voters getting the ballots processed and counted in a reasonable time period, I thought they did a marvelous job. But it was a huge challenge.”
Because state law prohibited the processing of absentee votes until 7 a.m. on Election Day—preventing workers from getting a head start with the time-consuming work of opening envelopes, removing ballots and preparing them for tabulation—everyone understood the state would face a historic backlog of votes to count once the polls closed at 8 p.m. This was the source of a monthslong dispute between the Democratic governor, the Democratic secretary of state and the Republicans who control both the House and Senate in Lansing. Whitmer and Benson warned the GOP leaders that a protracted counting process, especially in the scenario of a competitive election, would invite chaos. Other states Trump carried in 2016, such as Ohio and Florida, allowed for pre-canvassing of absentee and other mail-in ballots so that voters would know which candidate carried the state on election night. Why couldn’t Michigan do the same?