The Washington Post Sunday

Michi­gan tally: GOP of­fi­cials seek au­dit, de­layed cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Can­vass­ing board holds power to fi­nal­ize re­sults — or slow down process

- BY KAYLA RU­BLE, TOM HAM­BURGER AND DAVID A. FAHREN­THOLD tom.ham­burger@wash­post.com david.fahren­thold@wash­post.com

The heads of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Michi­gan Repub­li­can Party is­sued a joint state­ment Satur­day call­ing for Michi­gan’s state can­vass­ing board to de­lay cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den’s vic­tory in the state, mark­ing the lat­est at­tempt by GOP lead­ers to in­ter­vene in the state’s elec­toral process.

In the let­ter — signed by RNC Chair­woman Ronna McDaniel, who is from Michi­gan, and state GOP Chair Laura Cox — the of­fi­cials ask the can­vass­ing board to ad­journ for 14 days and al­low for a “full au­dit and in­ves­ti­ga­tion” be­fore they con­vene to cer­tify the state’s elec­tion re­sults, a pro­ce­dural step that is set to take place Mon­day af­ter­noon.

“This board faces a stark choice,” the let­ter reads, cit­ing claims of “nu­mer­i­cal anom­alies” and “pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” that they say would leave “the dis­trust and sense of pro­ce­dural dis­en­fran­chise­ment felt by many Michi­gan vot­ers to fes­ter for years” if ig­nored by the board.

The let­ter has in­creased wor­ries among state Demo­cratic lead­ers that Repub­li­cans may block cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Mon­day. They have be­gun draft­ing le­gal doc­u­ments and de­tailed con­tin­gency plans in the event the board fails to cer­tify. Among the op­tions be­ing con­sid­ered is for Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer (D) to re­place the GOP mem­bers us­ing her ex­ec­u­tive author­ity, or to ask a judge to com­pel the board to cer­tify the re­sults, said a cur­rent and for­mer Demo­cratic of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on this mat­ter.

“There is ab­so­lutely no le­gal ba­sis for the Repub­li­can can­vassers to aban­don their re­spon­si­bil­ity to cer­tify the gen­eral elec­tion re­sult — that was a fair, free and se­cure elec­tion — as re­quired by statute,” Chris­tine Greig, Michi­gan’s House Demo­cratic leader, said in a state­ment Fri­day. She said the de­lays in declar­ing the re­sults of­fi­cial — par­tic­u­larly those re­lated to vote counting in Detroit — are rooted in racism and could be a “stunt” to in­flu­ence se­lec­tion of the state’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tors.

McDaniel and Cox’s de­mand for scru­tiny is en­tirely fo­cused on the elec­tion re­sults in Wayne County, Michi­gan’s largest and most Demo­cratic county, which in­cludes Detroit.

Detroit elec­tion of­fi­cials and Demo­cratic lawyers dis­pute the ac­counts of wide­spread ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Wayne County of­fi­cials have noted dis­crep­an­cies in the vote count in a num­ber of precincts. But they said the size of the er­rors was small — a dif­fer­ence of one or two votes per precinct, af­fect­ing a to­tal of about 450 votes. Bi­den leads the state by about 150,000 votes.

Still, the de­mand by the two GOP lead­ers in­creases the pres­sure on the two Repub­li­can mem­bers of the four-mem­ber Board of Can­vassers, whose ac­tions Mon­day could slow down the process of fi­nal­iz­ing elec­tion re­sults in the bat­tle­ground state and em­power oth­ers to echo Pres­i­dent Trump’s un­founded al­le­ga­tion that he was robbed of vic­tory be­cause of wide­spread fraud.

In an in­ter­view Thurs­day, Nor­man Shin­kle, one of the Repub­li­cans on the state can­vass­ing board, said that although he ex­pected Bi­den to win the elec­tion, he may sug­gest a de­lay to al­low for an au­dit of the state’s bal­lots.

Repub­li­can mem­bers of the state leg­is­la­ture, in­clud­ing state Sen. Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chat­field, de­clared Fri­day af­ter a White House meet­ing that they had learned noth­ing to war­rant re­vers­ing the out­come in their state.

“Sen­a­tor Shirkey sup­ports a de­lib­er­ate process free from in­tim­i­da­tion and threats,” Am­ber McCann, Shirkey’s spokes­woman, said in a state­ment Satur­day. “The Board of State Can­vassers should feel com­fort­able tak­ing the full time al­lowed by law if they feel it’s nec­es­sary to per­form their du­ties, or cer­tify on Mon­day if they’re sat­is­fied it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to do so.”

The GOP lead­ers said they “echo” the con­cerns voiced by failed Repub­li­can U.S. Se­nate can­di­date John James, cit­ing a let­ter filed by his cam­paign that made claims of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in Wayne County’s elec­tions. Cox and McDaniel called the ac­cu­sa­tions made by the James cam­paign “deeply con­cern­ing.”

“In light of the al­ready un­prece­dented na­ture of this elec­tion — con­ducted largely by mail in the midst of an on­go­ing pan­demic,” they wrote, “it would be a griev­ous dere­lic­tion of this Board’s duty to the peo­ple of Michi­gan not to en­sure that the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties iden­ti­fied by the James Cam­paign are thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated by a full au­dit be­fore cer­ti­fy­ing Wayne County’s re­sults.”

At­tempt­ing to of­fer re­as­sur­ance that this was not an at­tempt to in­def­i­nitely block the state’s process of se­lect­ing elec­tors for Bi­den, they wrote that “nei­ther that ad­journ­ment nor the au­dit of Wayne County’s re­sults would im­per­mis­si­bly de­lay cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the elec­tion re­sults be­yond the statu­tory dead­line of De­cem­ber 7, 2020.”

Last week, Ben­son re­minded Michi­gan that her of­fice had al­ready in­tended to con­duct an au­dit of the elec­tion and has been pre­par­ing to do so for the past two years, not­ing that this would be a typ­i­cal post-elec­tion pro­ce­dure and was not be­ing done in re­sponse to dis­proved or un­founded claims of elec­tion fraud.

Ac­cord­ing to Michi­gan elec­tion law, the sec­re­tary of state “au­tho­rize the re­lease of all bal­lots, bal­lot boxes, vot­ing ma­chines, and equip­ment af­ter 30 days fol­low­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of an elec­tion by the board of state can­vassers” in the event that a re­count pe­ti­tion has been filed or a court has is­sued an or­der “re­strain­ing in­ter­fer­ence” with these ma­te­ri­als.

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