Detroit’s votes are expected to be a focus at Monday afternoon’s state of Board of Canvassers meeting. (BridgeDetroit photo by Ralph Jones)

Detroit’s election results again withstood the accusations of Republicans who sought to delay the certification of all Michigan votes due to the discrepancies of an estimated 500 mismatched ballots in the Motor City. 

The latest win seals President-elect Joe Biden statewide win over Donald Trump. Trump and his allies have pursued numerous legal challenges to Detroit and the state election results. All have failed.  

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Monday’s victory came when the state Board of Canvassers voted to certify the state elections. The vote by the four-member board was 3 “yes” votes and 1 abstention. Nearly 40,000 people watched the meeting online. Two Democrats and two Republicans make up the board. The abstention came from a Republican board member who repeatedly questioned the validity of Detroit’s election results. 

“The people of Michigan have spoken.” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a news release after the vote. “President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes and he will be our next president on January 20.”

During three hours of public comment before the vote, Board of State Canvassers member Norm Shinkle often allowed Republican critics to expand on their view that Detroit’s election was unfair to Republican observers and overall, that the city’s election process was too flawed to trust the results. 

“One location, and one jurisdiction stood out for being inhospitable and hostile to Republican challengers,” said Laura Cox, Michigan chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. And that location was Detroit and the TCF Center, the downtown convention center where more than 1,000 Detroit poll workers processed a record number of absentee ballots.  She, like other conservative critics, urged to delay certification until an audit of votes took place.  

But many election officials pointed out the Board of Canvassers had no power to demand an audit or conduct investigations. 

Chris Thomas, a former Michigan Elections Director who helped manage Detroit’s election, had a terse exchange with board member Shinkle over the board’s responsibilities. 

Thomas revealed that Shinkle asked Thomas last week if the state board could vote not to certify. “You can’t vote no. There is no ‘no’ in these circumstances. You’re the endgame of the statewide elections,” Thomas told Shinkle. 

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey hadn’t signed up to speak Monday, but Shinkle said it was vital for her to appear.  The board then took a recess and shortly after, Winfrey appeared online. She was dealing with a family medical emergency, she said, and appeared online wearing gloves and had just left a hospital.

She stressed the major upgrades in training of election workers, upgrade in technology and the hiring of experienced election consultants that occurred between the August primary and the November election. 

She also pointed out state law needs to be reformed, such as allowing longer times to process and count ballots. “If only our laws would allow for human error. We wouldn’t have to have these long deliberations to do your ministerial work, “ Winfrey said.

Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, said efforts to overturn Detroit votes were “part of a racist campaign, directed by soon-to-be former President Trump, to disparage the cities in this country with large Black populations.”  That included Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, she said. 

Several poll workers who were at the TCF Center during election week also spoke to numerous verbal and sometimes physical intimidations by Republican challengers and observers.  

The mayor of Jackson, Derek Dobies, who said he was a Detroit poll worker, said he witnessed numerous intimidating attempts by conservatives to stop poll workers.  “I even witnessed Republican organizers training volunteers to challenge every single military absentee ballot, however meritless,” Dobie said.  “Imagine a surgeon having to perform while constantly having their procedure and integrity questioned, all while others create loud distracting chants outside the operating room.”

“Nothing deterred our poll workers. They stayed focused throughout the entire operation.” says Daniel Baxter who served as a senior advisor on Detroit elections. 

Detroit votes have been at the core of the conservative attacks for weeks. Out of more than 878,000 votes cast in Wayne County, there was a discrepancy over approximately 450 votes, state and county election officials have said. Many of those ballot inconsistencies happened in Detroit.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed by the Trump administration and supporters.  All have failed after no evidence of fraud was found. Last week, two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially voted to not certify the county’s election but then quickly reversed course after withering criticism. 

Many Detroiters viewed the campaign as a modern-day version of Jim Crow laws that suppressed Black voters.  Here are some links to BridgeDetroit stories of some Detroiters who were poll workers that had to deal with conservative observers attempting to halt the counting of absentee ballots. 

Louis Aguilar is BridgeDetroit’s senior reporter. He covered business and development for the Detroit News, and is a former reporter for the Washington Post.

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