Opinions and Legal Insights

Two Republican Michigan Officials Attempt To Rescind Certifications Of Election Results

Just as you thought that the 2020 election could not get more bizarre, the controversy in Wayne County over the certification of the election took a new turn on Wednesday after two Republicans — Monica Palmer and William C. Hartmann, on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers sought to rescind their votes to certify. They claim that they were coerced by threats against them and their families by Democratic voters. The threats against Palmer and Hartmann are all-too-familiar in an election where Democratic members are calling for blacklists and others denounce any questioning of the Biden victory as akin to “Holocaust denial.” The Lincoln Project has led a national effort to harass any lawyers who represent Republicans or the Trump campaign. While it will be difficult to rescind such a vote, the silence in the media and from Democratic leaders on this harassment is chilling. Indeed, Democratic leaders have joined in the personal attacks.

The errors seem to be minor and certainly not enough to alter any outcome. They are in all likelihood clerical or human error. It is not clear why the errors were not corrected and could not simply be quickly addressed after the two officials raised them. In terms of changing the outcome, this may be a tempest in a teapot but why have a tempest at all? I still do not understand why the counts were not corrected since officials have acknowledged errors. Instead, the objections to the errors triggered a campaign of abuse.

The two canvassers signed affidavits that they were hit with a torrent of threats against them and their families after they demanded that the board address irregularities in what they said were 71% of Detroit’s 134 absent voter counting boards.  They were hit with personal attacks calling them racists and cult members. In a familiar campaign of post-election intimidation, they were doxxed and attacked.  The Lincoln Project (which is supported by thousands of lawyers and law firms) was blocked on Twitter in using such abusive tactics against individual Republican lawyers.

The two officials were instantly declared racist because the county has such a large African-American voting base: “Monica Palmer and William Hartmann took their hoods off yesterday in their initial assertions that the county certify every city’s vote except for Detroit.” They were called cult members and their telephone numbers and addresses shared in a doxxing campaign.

Ned Staebler, chief executive of TechTown, lashed out at the two officials in asking for the correction of the errors: “The Trump stain, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have covered yourself in, is going to follow you throughout history.” He added that the two officials would “forever be known in southeastern Michigan as two racists who did something so unprecedented that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Black voters in the city of Detroit.”

One of those attacking the two officials was Rep.-elect Abraham Aiyash, D-Detroit. Aiyash declared:

“You are certainly showing that you are a racist. You may say that you are not, you may claim that you are not, but let’s be very clear. Your words today and your actions today made it clear that you are OK with silencing the votes of an 80% African American city . . . What that tells us is you Ms. Monica Palmer of Grosse Pointe Woods, which has a history of racism, are deciding to enable and continuing to perpetuate the racist history of this country. And I want you to think about what that means for your kids, who probably go to Grosse Pointe North, and when they see all their Black classmates and they know that… their mother, or their grandmother, their aunt, decided to say, in this democracy in this American project, that is not perfect but we have to work toward perfecting it, I’m going to be comfortable sleeping at night knowing that I silenced the votes of so many people.”

They were also attacked by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: “In refusing to approve the results of the election in Wayne County, the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers have placed partisan politics above their legal duty to certify the election results.”

Some individuals went further to threaten the officials and their families, a growing occurrence in the country. Yesterday, I spoke to a group of Republican lawyers who recounted how bomb attacks and other violent threats have been directed at them and their families. The Lincoln Project and various lawyers have led efforts to intimidate lawyers and their clients.

It worked in Michigan. The two officials reversed their votes, but said that they did so under an agreement that the Secretary of State would conduct an audit. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson however reportedly later said the audit request was not binding. Palmer stated  that she “felt misled.”

The signed affidavits trying to “rescind” these votes will face serious obstacles. Board vice chairman Jonathan Kinloch has already stated that the board considers the votes “binding.” He noted that there was also a vote waiving any reconsideration of the certification.

 

I do not see a court undoing those votes even with the sworn statements on the campaign of threats and abuse directed against them and their families.

The officials could add their affidavits to alleging of election irregularities and they can ask for criminal investigations into any personal threats.

There have also been threats reported by Democratic officials in states like Arizona that should be equally condemned. We are allowing the most radical elements of our politics to shape our dialogue as a nation in the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in history.

What is missing however are calls in the media or from Democratic leaders to end such campaign of intimidation and abuse by groups like The Lincoln Project. While President-elect Joe Biden has called for unity and healing, he has said nothing about the campaign against Trump campaign lawyers and their clients. He has said nothing about reports of violent threats against officials or lawyers tied to election challenges. No law firms or lawyers have publicly withdrawn their support for the Lincoln Project after it pledged half a million dollars to hound and harass lawyers. The silence speaks loudly to our loss of civility, decency, and professionalism as a nation.