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Michigan's Wayne County Certifies Election Results After Brief GOP Refusal

Election workers count absentee ballots earlier this month in Detroit, the county seat of Wayne County, Michigan. The county's board of canvassers initially failed to certify its election results after the board's two Republican members voted against certification. They quickly reversed course under public pressure.
Election workers count absentee ballots earlier this month in Detroit, the county seat of Wayne County, Michigan. The county's board of canvassers initially failed to certify its election results after the board's two Republican members voted against certification. They quickly reversed course under public pressure.

Updated at 11:36 a.m. ET

Officials in Michigan's most populous county reversed course and certified its election results Tuesday evening, just a few hours after a surprising party-line deadlock suddenly cast the certification of more than 800,000 votes in doubt. Wayne County voted overwhelmingly for President-elect Joe Biden.

The two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers — a bipartisan foursome tasked with approving the results from a heavily populated swath of Michigan that includes Detroit — initially blocked the move to certify the votes, asserting discrepancies with the poll books in certain Detroit precincts.

That meant an extremely rare 2-2 tie, which would have been sent up to the Board of State Canvassers to decide. The deadlock even earned a celebratory tweet from President Trump, who lost Michigan and the presidential election but has refused to concede. The tie did not last long, however.

It stood for just about three hours under withering criticism, as residents made their complaints clear during a public comment period and local and national leaders lambasted the two members' decision online.

Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell, for one, called it "an appalling outrage."

"They are denying justice and insulting and disregarding the will of Wayne County voters. They have neglected their responsibility by politicizing the certification process," Bell said in a statement issued Tuesday, adding that she was "disappointed in the two Republican members, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann."

President-elect Joe Biden carried 68% of the vote in Wayne County. And in Detroit specifically, where Palmer and Hartmann focused their objections to the results, more than 78% of the city's population is black — a point that was not lost on critics.

During the Zoom meeting for public comment directly after the board's initial vote, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, called the two members a "disgrace."

"You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only ones that are at fault is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans," he told the two Republican board members, according to The Associated Press. "Shame on you!"

The deadlock dissolved later that evening, however, as Palmer and Hartmann reversed their votes with the reassurance of a comprehensive audit of the vote tally. With their approval, the election results in Wayne County were certified unanimously.

The dust-up in Wayne County unfolded amid a nationwide effort by Trump and many of his GOP allies to push back on the results of the election. The outgoing president has claimed widespread voting fraud, without evidence, in the several of the states that he lost, including Michigan.

On Wednesday, the president reiterated his claim that a "giant scam" robbed him of a victory in the state. "I win Michigan!" he tweeted.

He and his allies, however, have repeatedly failed to produce evidence supporting their allegations of election fraud.

That failure has spelled trouble in court for his campaign to get the election results overturned. In Michigan, an appeals court on Monday unanimously ruled against a Republican bid to invalidate the vote in Wayne County. The decision backed a lower-court ruling that found the allegations to be simply "not credible."

And the legal setbacks for Trump haven't been confined to Michigan's borders, either. As NPR's Pam Fessler explains, similar efforts challenging the vote in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin have failed to gain traction.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.