Michigan Board of State Canvassers certifies election results, finalizing Joe Biden’s win

Monday, November 23, 2020 - 4:44pm

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Courtesy of Michigan Board of State Canvassers

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers met Monday afternoon to certify the 2020 election results of all 83 counties in the state, verifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win while the Trump campaign continues to make baseless claims of voter fraud.

By certifying the election results, Michigan will now send its 16 Democratic delegates to the Electoral College meeting on Dec. 14, where they are expected to cast their votes for Biden. 

The certification comes after increased pressure by the Trump campaign to push the two Republican members of the Board of Canvassers — Aaron Van Langevelde and Norman Shinkle — to stop the certification, either by abstaining or voting against the certification of the votes. 

Shinkle has been a mouthpiece for Trump’s unverified claims of voter fraud in the state of Michigan and has requested an audit of election results before the votes are certified. However, under state law, elections results must be certified before there can be any such audit or recount. 

The Trump campaign has launched numerous voter-fraud claims and lawsuits in Michigan. On Nov. 5, a Michigan judge dismissed claims by the Trump campaign that Republican challengers did not have access to the handling of absentee ballots, specifically at the TCF Center in Detroit, where pro-Trump ralliers stood outside on election day. Later in the month, the plaintiffs in an additional lawsuit aiming to discard the votes of Washtenaw, Wayne and Ingham counties withdrew their case.

On Monday, the board voted to certify the election results with three in favor and one abstaining. Van Langevelde broke with party lines to join the two Democratic board members in supporting certification. The process of certification is largely a bureaucratic step but the vote sparked controversy after Republican efforts to delay.

Van Langevelde signified his willingness to certify the results early on in the meeting, but held out to hear from the public on whether or not to certify the results. Over 500 public commenters lined up to be heard.

“We have a duty to certify based on these returns,” Van Langevelde said. “I think we’re pretty limited today. I think we’ve got a duty to do this, but I also think we owe it to the people to allow them to speak.”

Christopher Thomas, former Michigan elections director, discussed with the body the importance of certifying the results in order to move forward.

“Our system is a zero-sum operation,” Thomas said. “You got winners, you got losers. We don’t have any ties. Everyone doesn’t get a trophy.”

Jeff Timmer, a former member of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, spoke to the board about the typically routine nature of certifying election results. 

“If the board has all the required returns, it has no discretion, it has none, it has zero,” Timmer said. “The board must certify the results today. It is mandatory. It is a routine, ministerial function being performed here today. The same regular and predictable function that occurs after every election.”

GOP member Shinkle, the lone vote against certification, expressed doubt in Michigan’s ability to conduct elections and said he hopes that the issues being disputed in the election do not continue.

“Michigan has a problem conducting elections,” Shinkle said. “And for that I apologize to the citizens and this nation and commit to making sure problems are addressed… It is unacceptable that so many questions have been raised about the 2020 election.” 

Republicans have repeatedly moved to give cover to the Trump campaign’s legal strategy, which seeks to delay finalizing election results in various battleground states.

On Nov. 20, Michigan GOP state lawmakers also met with President Trump in an attempt by the president to sway Michigan election officials to give Trump the state’s delegation votes. In a joint statement after the meeting, Mike Shirkey, the Michigan Senate Majority Leader, and Lee Chatfield, the Michigan Speaker of the House, said fraud allegations will be investigated but did not sound confident in Trump’s ongoing claims. 

Julie Matuzak, a Democratic member of the Board of Canvassers who voted in favor of certifying the results, clarified that claims of widespread voter fraud are not true and conspiratorial.

“I see no evidence of fraud,” Matzurak said. “But there’s lots of human error given how we do things and I think we need to seriously look at that. I think we seriously need to fix that.” 

The president-elect won the state by 154,187 votes, beating incumbent President Trump by more than 2.8% of the vote. In 2016, Trump won the state only by 10,704 votes over Hillary Clinton with a margin of 0.2%. 

Over 5.5 million people voted in Michigan this past election — the most ballots ever cast and the highest percentage of voters 18 and over to vote since 1960. Over 3.5 million people voted by absentee ballots, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at juforres@umich.edu


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