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Michigan certifies election results and Biden's victory in the state

Michigan certifies vote count
Michigan certifies vote count 06:13

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify its election results Monday, formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state over President Trump by a margin.

Three members voted yes, and one of the two Republican members on the evenly split board abstained.

The results after Michigan's 83 counties finished canvassing showed Mr. Biden beating Mr. Trump by over 154,000 votes. That's more than 14 times the president's 2016 margin of victory.

Mr. Trump and his allies have been trying unsuccessfully through the courts and other means to overturn the election results, and Michigan's certification, which took place before the "safe harbor" date of December 8, presents what is likely an insurmountable obstacle to further challenges in the state because it means Congress is guaranteed to accept the results.

There was intense pressure from Democrats and some establishment Republicans in Michigan for the board to certify results. But other Republicans urged the board to delay certification until an audit could be performed.

The vote came about three and a half hours into the board's live-streamed meeting, which drew thousands of viewers from around the country. Many were focused on Republican Vice Chair Aaron Van Langevelde, who did not signal before the meeting whether he planned to vote to certify the results.

However, Van Langevelde made his intentions clear early in the meeting that the board was supposed to certify the results as given to them by the state's counties and could not request an audit.

"In this case the law is absolutely clear: we have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the results that were given to us," Van Langevelde said moments before the vote. "We cannot and should not go beyond that."

Last week, Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James wrote to the Board of State Canvassers to ask it to delay certification for 14 days so that Wayne County could undergo an audit. On Saturday, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox wrote a letter echoing that request. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson replied that there would be an audit after the state certified the results, but state law didn't allow for one to take place beforehand because clerks couldn't access the documents needed to conduct an audit. Benson celebrated the board's vote to certify the results and said that there would be audits at the state and local levels. 

"Today's vote of the State Board of Canvassers to certify Michigan's November election confirms the truth: the election was fair and secure, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters," Benson said. "Now we turn to the important work of implementing a statewide risk limiting audit and local procedural audits to affirm the integrity of the process and identify opportunities for improvement. And we will continue working with lawmakers at the state and federal level to strengthen our elections even further in the months ahead."

Ben Halle, a Biden campaign spokesman, cheered the board's "recognition of the plain facts" that Biden had won the state by more than 154,000 votes. 

In a statement following the board's vote, Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump Campaign, called certification a "procedural step" and said the campaign would "continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes."

One of the central issues Republicans pointed to when asking for an audit were the unexplained unbalanced precincts in Wayne County, home to Detroit. That means that the number of tabulated votes did not match the number of voters in the poll book and could indicate that a precinct can't be recounted. 

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially deadlocked on certifying the county's results last week after it was revealed that 70% of the absentee voting counting boards in Detroit were not balanced. During the August primary, 72% of the absentee precincts were unbalanced. Republicans on the county board said the lack of progress was a reason they didn't certify. The two elections may not be directly comparable because in November precincts were combined into counting boards, and the percentage of precincts that were unbalanced is not clear.  

The Republicans on the county board switched their votes after hours of public comment in exchange for a request that Benson conduct an audit of the unbalanced, unexplained precincts. 

A memo from the secretary of state's office supported certifying the state results and said the errors like the unbalanced precincts were "attributable to human error." The report also said that 72% of Detroit's precincts, from in-person and absentee voting, were balanced during the 2020 general election. In 2016, just 42% of the city's total precincts were balanced.  

The Board of Canvassers met two days after top Republicans in the Michigan Legislature had gone to the White House to meet with President Trump. Democrats decried the meeting and suggested Mr. Trump was trying to pressure the GOP state lawmakers into overturning Michigan's results by replacing its slate of electors with individuals who would vote for Mr. Trump, rather than Mr. Biden.

After the meeting, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said, "We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors, just as we have said throughout this election."

In a statement after the board's vote on Monday, Chatfield said he was glad the board "fulfilled its legal duties" and now the "democratic process can move forward."

"I am also glad the conspiracy theories pushed by far too many Democrats and some talking heads in the media for attention and personal or political gain have finally been put to rest," he added. "The Legislature will uphold the law and respect this result as it works to improve the process for next time."

The Board also unanimously voted to ask the Legislature to review Michigan's election and ensure it is accurate. The Michigan Legislature's Oversight Committees have already begun a process looking into the 2020 election.

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