December 6, 2020
The President’s challenges, canvassing board controversies, and extraordinary hearings that attracted international media coverage all played a role in the unfolding story of the November 3 election.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and many voters having to learn how to absentee vote for the first time, Michigan’s election process went fairly smoothly. But the post-election period has been pretty rocky as those disappointed with the election results used many methods to express their dismay and disbelief in the results.
Perceptions — Prior to November 3, President Donald Trump led many to believe that the absentee ballot voting process was being conducted fraudulently and urged voters to vote in person. In-person votes were able to be counted rapidly on election night and reported.
Democrats and health experts urged voters to use the absentee voting process and 60 percent of Michigan voters did so. Because the Michigan Legislature failed to approve proposed measures to allow more extensive pre-processing of absentee ballots, many city, township, and county absentee vote counting boards took longer, sometimes days longer, to process and report absentee ballot results.
As absentee votes were tallied, the election results changed of course. At one point the Republicans put out a general alarm to their supporters to go to the Wayne County absentee vote counting board location at the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall) in Detroit to protest what they perceived as irregularities and fraud in the absentee vote counting as Trump’s early statewide lead diminished and then disappeared.
Wayne County — The suspicion of vote rigging in Wayne County led to a dramatic Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting on November 17, the last day that State law required county canvassing boards to certify their vote totals. The two Republicans at first refused to certify the election, which would have thrown the certification process to the state level for a decision. After several hours of heated public testimony, another Board vote was taken and the Board certified the vote tallies. The next day the two Republican board members wanted to recant their votes but were told it was too late.
White House — Meanwhile, President Trump invited Republican leadership in the Michigan House and Senate to meet with him at the White House on November 20. From some reports, he apparently tried to convince them to intervene to appoint presidential electors from Michigan who would vote for Trump instead of the popular vote winner in Michigan, Joe Biden. Michigan law prohibits such an intervention and Republican legislative leaders have so far stated they will not interfere.
Michigan Board of State Canvassers (MBSC) Meeting — The MBSC met on November 23 to certify the election results in all 83 counties. In a video-available meeting where tens of thousands were watching and over 500 people signed up to testify orally and thousands submitted written statements, one Republican joined the two Democrats to certify the county vote totals. Joe Biden had 154,188 more votes than Donald Trump. Under state law, Trump had 48 hours to ask for a re-count, which was not forthcoming.
2020 Michigan Certified Presidential Election Results
Nationally, other states had their own dramas as Joe Biden was able to flip not only Michigan but Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, all states that Trump won in 2016. As of December 1, 36 states had certified their election results. Trump asked for a hand re-count in Georgia and a re-count of two counties in Wisconsin, but though vote tallies changed, the resulting winner did not.
Biden’s lead over Trump is the second largest since 2000, and is about two and a half times larger than Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump in 2016.
Exit polling indicates a big race and gender gap in voter preferences nationally:
Biden led by a 33-point margin among first-time voters; a 26-point margin among voters ages 18 to 29. Trump had a slight edge on seniors (50%-48%).
Ascertainment — Although President Trump has yet to concede his election loss at this writing, the General Services Administration ascertained the election results on November 23, identifying Biden as the apparent winner. This opened up the transition process and resources for Biden’s team to take office more smoothly upon inauguration on January 20.
Challenges — U.S. Attorney General William Barr, declared on December 1 that the Justice Department had uncovered no widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The Associated Press has tallied roughly 50 cases brought by the campaign of President Trump and his allies, challenging the result of the presidential election. More than 30 have been rejected or dropped. About a dozen are awaiting action. Trump has gotten one court win in a Pennsylvania case about deadlines for proof of identification for certain absentee ballots and mail-in ballots. It didn’t affect the vote outcome in that state.
The advocacy group Democracy Docket put Trump’s losses even higher, stating on December 4 that Trump’s team had lost 46 post-election lawsuits following several fresh losses in several states that day.
The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in elections: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes, and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for ballots to be miscast or lost, and for tabulating equipment to have been compromised.
The Michigan Court of Appeals on December 4 declined to take an appeal from President Donald Trump’s campaign of an earlier Michigan Court of Claims decision denying the campaign’s request to stop the counting of absentee ballots in Wayne County because the process was nearly finished. Judge Stephen Borrello and Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, appointed by former Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, ruled to deny the appeal because the votes had been certified and the Trump campaign did not ask for a re-count within the legal time frame for doing so. Judge Patrick Meter, an appointee of former Republican Governor John Engler, would have granted the leave to appeal because the State’s presidential electors had not yet been seated.
The Michigan Senate Oversight Committee held a seven-hour hearing on December 1 about the Wayne County ballot counting process. Members of the public who were at the TCF Center, including former Senator Patrick Colbeck who was a poll challenger there testified about what they saw or thought they saw, and what they thought they were prevented from seeing. The Committee intends to conduct additional hearings.
On the evening of Wednesday, December 2, the Michigan House Oversight Committee heard testimony from President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other witnesses. Over the course of roughly four hours, Mr. Giuliani reiterated claims of election fraud or irregularities that have otherwise been disproven in court as not credible or factually inaccurate. Giuliani asked Michigan lawmakers to redirect the state’s 16 Electoral College votes for President Donald Trump rather than to President-elect Joe Biden due to these allegations. NBC’s Saturday Night Live lampooned the hearing in their cold open on Saturday, December 5.
Rejected Ballots — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reported that of more than 15,000 ballots rejected in the general election, the leading reason for rejection (4,900) was due to a voter moving to another jurisdiction in the state prior to Election Day. The next most common reasons for rejection were because the voter cast their absentee ballot while alive but died prior to election day (3,469 ballots rejected); the ballot arrived after 8 p.m. on November 3 (3,328 ballots rejected); or because there was no signature on the ballot (1,852 ballots rejected). Another 1,400 ballots were rejected because the voter’s signature did not match the signature on file and 1,015 ballots were rejected as the voter’s registration was cancelled before Election Day. The remaining 148 ballots were rejected either because the envelope was submitted without a ballot, a first-time voter who registered by mail did not have an ID confirmed, or because the voter was sentenced or incarcerated before Election Day.
Democratic presidential electors chosen at their convention last August will meet December 14 in the Michigan Senate chambers to officially cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in Michigan, Joe Biden.
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