Sunday, October 24, 2021

State Board of Canvassers certifies Nov. 3 election results

November 23, 2020
<p>Voters at Southside Community Center polling location filling out ballots Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.</p>

Voters at Southside Community Center polling location filling out ballots Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Photo by Di'Amond Moore | The State News

Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify the Nov. 3 general election results after listening to numerous public comments during the Monday meeting, confirming President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by more than 150,000 votes.

Democrat Julie Matuzak proposed the motion and it later passed with a vote of 3-0 since Republican Norman Shinkle abstained from voting. 

“More than 5.5 million Michiganders cast ballots in Nov. elections, a record in our state,” Elections Director Jonathan Brater said during the meeting. “Record-setting participation in the midst of a global pandemic is inspiring, and voters should be commended for making their voices heard this November.”

Brater started the meeting with a recommendation to certify the election results. According to him, the bureau has not identified any irregularities this year other than “the typical, occasional human-error that is always part of the process.”

More than 26,000 viewers watched the live-streamed video as board members heard from election officials, legislators, attorneys, observers and voters themselves, anxiously anticipating the board’s decision. 

“The time for political games is over,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said during the meeting. “... A failure to certify these election results will signal to the country that democracy is dying in Michigan.”

Barb said to the board if they are presented with a complete return by the secretary of state, the canvassers do not have the ability to postpone the certification. She said the board has a duty under Michigan election law to certify the results.

“It is the job of 83 county boards of canvassers, not the state, to certify their vote total within their jurisdiction,” Barb said. “The state does not get to do the counties’ job under state law. Anything other than certification is an unlawful power grab and will mean wholesale disenfranchisement of the millions of voters including those right here in Ingham County.”

Charles Spies, attorney to former Senate candidate John James, suggested the board adjourn the meeting for the purpose of conducting an audit first before certifying the elections.

“Our position is that the board should — perhaps even must — certify,” Spies said. “But it should only do that when it is confident that the results it that it is certified are accurate.”

The board’s authority is limited under Michigan law. While some urged the board to delay certification to perform an audit first, only the secretary of state with county clerks can perform an audit after results have been certified. Furthermore, an audit is not the same as a recount and does not change the certified election results.

Recognizing the limited authority, Vice Chair Aaron Van Langevelde said while the board has the power to adjourn due to necessary purpose, he disagreed with Spies on the ability to adjourn in order to delay the certification.

“We can’t create the necessity out of thin air,” Langevelde said. “We’d have to have a legal authority to do it.”

Regardless, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said her office would perform an audit of results after the board certifies results.

After the State Board of Canvassers certified the elections, Benson tweeted “Democracy has prevailed.”

“Our democracy, like those who administer it, is resilient,” Benson said in her tweet thread. “Today it survived an unprecedented attack on its integrity. … Now we turn to the important work of implementing a statewide risk-limiting audit & local procedural audits to affirm the integrity of the vote & identify areas for improvement.”

Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel also issued a statement upon the certification of Michigan’s votes in the Nov. 3 general election by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

“I commend the members of the Board of State Canvassers for today’s vote to certify our election results,” Nessel said. “... It is now the responsibility of every official and leader in this country to ensure that the will of the voters is heard. The Board’s actions today did exactly that in Michigan and I appreciate and respect their courage under these historic circumstances.”

Under Michigan law, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has the power to remove and replace any board member who refuses to certify results. 

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“The Board fulfilled its legal duties today in certifying the results, and now our democratic process can move forward,” Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said in a release. “This is America at work.”

Chatfield said in his statement the House has been saying for weeks that the Legislature will uphold the law and respect this result as it works to improve the process for next time.

“That includes continuing our work in the House and Senate Oversight committees getting answers for the many people across our state who are concerned about the integrity of the process and giving them the peace of mind they deserve," Chatfield said. "That too is America at work."

Following the certification, Trump’s legal team also issued a statement.

“Certification by state officials is simply a procedural step,” Trump 2020 Senior Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis said. “We are going to continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes. Americans must be assured that the final results are fair and legitimate.”

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