Michigan’s state board certifies Biden’s win

Detroit ballots
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The Michigan State Board of Canvassers voted Monday to certify the state’s election results, formally granting President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 16 electoral votes.

The certification all but erases President Donald Trump’s pathway to try to overturn the election results through legal challenges that have been dismissed in key states.

One of the two Republican members of the Michigan state canvassing board, Aaron Van Langevelde, joined the two Democrats to vote to certify the election results, after it was unclear how he would vote prior to the meeting.

The question of certifying Michigan’s election results moved center stage amid the Trump campaign’s dubious claims of voter fraud and efforts in court to delay certification and overturn the results in several key states that voted for Biden. As the Michigan board debated Monday, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to block the counting of certain absentee ballots — clearing the way for votes to be certified in multiple counties, including Philadelphia.

At Monday’s meeting, Van Langevelde signaled that he believed he was required to certify the vote under state law, regardless of whether he believed there should be an audit of Wayne County’s election results. He said he supported an audit, but that did not mean the board should wait to certify the election first.

“We must not attempt to exercise power we don’t have,” he said.

The other Republican on the board, Norman Shinkle, abstained. He argued that the board should not certify the election results until an investigation into voting in Wayne County — the state’s largest, which includes Detroit — was completed. Shinkle asked the Republican-led Michigan legislature to conduct a review of the 2020 election.

Earlier this month, the Republican canvassing board members in Wayne County initially voted against certification, before voting in favor after a public uproar. The GOP board members received a call from Trump that night, and the following day they filed affidavits seeking to rescind their votes, which they could not do so.

That shifted the attention to the state canvassing board, which also has two Republican and two Democratic members. Before the vote, the board heard from election officials like local clerks, campaign lawyers and other experts. Van Langevelde signaled his view from the outset, debating about the board’s role with an attorney for GOP Senate candidate John James, who argued the canvassing board could adjourn and wait for the results of an audit before certifying the results.

Van Langevelde disagreed. “I’ve had a pretty good chance to look at the law. There is nothing in the law that gives me the authority to request an audit,” he said.

Shinkle came to a different conclusion. He asked Chris Thomas, who served as a senior adviser to the Detroit city clerk and has built a decades-long career serving both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state in Michigan, under what circumstances the board can delay certification.

Thomas said, “If you have the completed returns, I don’t think you can adjourn,” and that the only option the board has now is to certify the results. All counties in Michigan have certified their results.

Shinkle rejected Thomas’ characterization that the election ran smoothly. “Smoothly is not accurate at all,” Shinkle said.

Shinkle sought at the meeting to ask questions of Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who initially was not slated to speak but appeared via video, like other witnesses, after a brief recess. Shinkle asked whether the city had hired sufficient Republican poll workers for the election as required under state law, claiming Republicans who sought to work the polls were denied.

Winfrey responded that the city had hired as many Republicans as it could, but those who applied too late were not allowed to take the job.

Republican and Democratic state and local officials appeared via video to speak at the meeting. When one Republican repeated debunked conspiracy theories about the vote count, one of the Democratic board members asked whether the allegations had been submitted to the attorney general, because the canvassing board could not investigate those claims.

The Trump campaign has tried to interfere with the certification process, and Trump has courted Michigan officials as he and attorney Rudy Giuliani continue to claim without evidence widespread voter fraud and a “rigged election.”

Trump met with Republican Michigan state lawmakers at the White House last week and state Republican leadership, including Chatfield, said in a statement “we have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election.”

The Republican National Committee and Michigan Republican Party sent a letter to the board of canvassers on Saturday asking them to delay certification for 14 days. They also asked for them to wait for an audit of the election results in Wayne County, the largest county in the state that includes Detroit — even though state law doesn’t allow that.