Michigan will be the epicenter of national politics on Monday as the Board of State Canvassers meets to certify general election results showing Joe Biden won the state by 154,000 votes.
Certifying the election is historically a routine sign-off by the board, which must act in a nonpartisan fashion. Still, there is uncertainty as President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee have been trying to delay the legitimization of more than 5.5 million Michigan voters.
Michigan’s two most influential GOP leaders, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, were among seven Republican legislators who met with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. on Friday. Critics have said the lawmakers were beckoned to the nation’s capital by Trump in an effort to influence the election results.
But on Sunday, Chatfield said Trump didn’t ask lawmakers to “break the law” or “interfere” with the election, according to an AP report.
“There was this outrage that the president was going to ask us to break the law, he was going to ask us to interfere, and that just simply didn’t happen,” he told Fox News of the meeting.
According to the AP report, if the board does not confirm the results and the Michigan Supreme Court does not subsequently order it to do so, Chatfield said “now we have a constitutional crisis.”
Shirkey stressed that the election process should be free of any intimidation and threats in a tweet on Sunday.
“Whether the Board of Canvassers certifies our results tomorrow or decides to take the full time allowed by law to perform their duties, it’s inappropriate for anyone to exert pressure on them,” he stated.
Other Republicans like U.S. Rep. Fred Upton also sounded off on Sunday. Upton, R-St. Joseph, said “the voters have spoken” when he appeared on CNN.
“No one has come up with any evidence of fraud or abuse” he said.
The various statements come after widespread speculation the state’s Republican leaders would discuss with the president intervening in the process of selecting electors even though the Legislature does not have a role in the process under Michigan law.
On Saturday, the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee sent a letter to the Board of State Canvassers asking them to delay the certification for 14 days to conduct an audit of Wayne County’s results.
Michigan law only prevents election officials from accessing the documents necessary to perform an audit until certified. Michigan’s election agency has recommended the Nov. 3 election results be certified by the Board of State Canvassers, including Biden’s 2.8% victory.
The board comprises two members of each major political party to prevent “partisan manipulation when certifying a vote,” said Mark Brewer, an attorney at Goodman Acker. The state election board has never deadlocked over a presidential election.
“Michigan has a proud history the last 65 years that this board has always acted in an unanimous nonpartisan fashion,” Brewer said. “It’s mandatory and ministerial to perform their duty of certifying the election.”
Brewer took part in a panel hosted by the ACLU, the Detroit Branch of the NCAAP, and the League of Women Voters alongside other election law experts on Nov. 19. The panel was to discuss the board’s duties.
The governor appoints the four board members with the advice and consent of the state Senate. Board members serve four-year terms and operate in relative obscurity, certifying vote results, which are then turned over to the Electoral College by the governor.
If at least three canvassers don’t vote to certify the election, the vote fails and likely gets tossed to the courts.
Jeannette Bradshaw, a Democrat from Ortonville, chairs the board. She was appointed to the board in 2013 and is the recording secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Works Local 58.
Norman Shinkle, a Republican state canvasser, previously told MLive the aftermath of the election is “totally different than what we’re used to.” Shinkle, who’s served on the board since 2013, said he’s holding off on deciding on whether he’ll vote to certify the results until he gets more detailed reports from election officials and affected parties.
Trump is Shinkle’s preferred candidate. Shinkle’s wife, Mary, was a poll challenger at Detroit’s TCF Center and a witness in Trump’s lawsuit, which was dropped last week.
Julie Matuzak, a Democrat state canvasser and Macomb County Commissioner, is a retired political coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers’ Michigan branch. She was appointed to the board in 2013.
Aaron Van Langevelde, a Republican state canvasser, was the Branch County assistant prosecutor before becoming an attorney for the House Republican Caucus.
Numerous actions can be taken if the canvassers fail to exercise their duty, according to Steven Liedel, former chief legal counsel to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could initiate court proceedings to force compliance, and if there is gross neglect of duty, the governor can remove officers from their seats. Members could also be individually sued, compelling them to perform their duties.
“Appointing members of the Electoral College isn’t a legislative duty,” Liedel said.
Michigan law only allows the legislature to pick a candidate in rare situations, like an extremely close race when two candidates have the same amount of votes.
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