John James, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks at a reelection rally for President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan on September 10, 2020. Dominick Sokotoff/Daily.  Buy this photo.

In a dramatic turn of events, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers unanimously voted to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election, three hours after that same body was deadlocked in a two-two vote Tuesday night. The reversal comes after public outcry following the board’s initial stalemate.

The two Republican canvassers faced widespread criticism for refusing to certify the election.

The board has requested Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson perform a thorough audit for out-of balance precincts in the county, including the city of Detroit.

The body certified votes in the county with similar discrepancies in August during the primary election. Wayne County, which includes Detroit, is the most populous county in Michigan and was integral in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state.

In a statement released following the second vote, the Michigan Democratic Party thanked the board for changing course and approving the results. Party Chair Lavora Barnes also expressed gratitude to Michigan residents who voiced their disappointment with the initial deadlocked vote.

“We applaud this decision and are thrilled that the voices of over 800,000 Wayne County voters have been heard and their votes have been properly counted,” Barnes said. “We were reminded tonight about the importance of speaking up and speaking out. We are deeply thankful to all of you that took the time to share your story tonight. You made a difference.”

John James, the Republican Senate candidate who has still not conceded the race to projected winner Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., applauded the board’s decision to deadlock in a statement released Tuesday evening. The James campaign did not respond immediately to The Michigan Daily’s request for comment following the certification.

“This unprecedented vote shows the serious issues that underlie the processes that happened on election day,” James said in a statement. “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.”


President Donald Trump has called the integrity of the election in battleground states like Michigan and Georgia into question, repeating baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud that have been debunked. Four lawsuits from lawyers allied with Trump seeking to discard ballots in Michigan and other states were withdrawn Monday. The lawsuits alleged voter fraud with no evidence. In Michigan, the case sought to invalidate votes in heavily Democratic counties, including Wayne and Washtenaw, which is home to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

Monica Palmer, a Republican member of the Board of Canvassers, said she voted against certifying the election because of the large number of out of balance absentee ballot books in certain jurisdictions of the county, including Detroit. Out of balance means the number of voters who signed into polling places did not line up with the number of ballots counted.

Palmer currently faces an ethical investigation over a potential conflict of interest regarding involvement with the Grosse Pointe Public Schools School Board election.

“I believe that we do not have complete and accurate information on those poll books,” Palmer said.

Ann Arbor resident Ned Staebler spoke during the meeting to criticize Palmer and the other Republican on the board, William Hartmann, for what he referred to as an effort to disenfranchise Detroiters, calling the two racist.

“The law isn’t on your side,” Staebler said. “History won’t be on your side.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at

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