Republicans ask Michigan election board to delay certification

A poll challenger argues with police and officials after being asked to leave in Detroit on Nov 4, 2020.
A poll challenger argues with police and officials after being asked to leave in Detroit on Nov 4, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Republicans in Michigan asked the state's election board to delay certification of votes in the presidential election by two weeks, a day after two state GOP lawmakers said they haven't yet seen any reason the outcome - a win for Mr Joe Biden - would change.

A letter on Saturday (Nov 21) from Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel and Ms Laura Cox, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, demanded a "full transparent audit" in Wayne County, which includes the city of Detroit.

Michigan's board of state canvassers should take into account "numerical anomalies and credible reports of procedural irregularities", the pair wrote.

In response, Mr Jake Rollow, spokesman for the Michigan Department of State, said candidates have a right to request a recount after election certification - but that any claim of misconduct "should be reported immediately to law enforcement or the Bureau of Elections".

"At this time, no evidence of widespread misconduct or fraud has been reported, and judges initially appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have found allegations of widespread fraud to be wholly meritless," Mr Rollow said.

On Friday, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, also said they had "not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan".

The pair issued a joint statement after meeting with Mr Donald Trump amid the President's effort to overturn the state's vote for Mr Biden.

"We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors," they said.

They added that allegations of fraud "should be taken seriously" and "thoroughly investigated", but that certifying the Michigan vote "should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation".

Mr Trump responded to the lawmakers in a pair of Saturday morning tweets asserting his team would show "massive" voter fraud.

Thus far, more than two weeks after Election Day, Mr Trump's lawyers haven't provided evidence that widespread irregularities occurred.

The lawmakers' meeting with Mr Trump on Friday came after a bipartisan backlash against the President and his lawyers, who've discussed trying to persuade legislatures to appoint electors to vote for Mr Trump, even though Mr Biden won.

Mr Trump's team is focused on Michigan, where Mr Biden leads the President by roughly 156,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points.

The state has yet to certify its results. Mr Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 0.3 points, or less than 11,000 votes.

The Michigan board of state canvassers is scheduled to meet on Monday to certify the results of the Nov 3 vote.

Long-shot bids

The effort in Michigan is part of a series of long-shot bids Mr Trump and his allies are using in an attempt to reverse his defeat.

The President's legal advisers have also suggested that state legislators in Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote and choose pro-Trump electors.

They've pressured state and local officials in Arizona and Georgia not to certify their election results, though Georgia on Friday brushed aside those pleas and moved forward with certification.

Democrats and some Republicans, along with election lawyers and Mr Biden's aides, say efforts to overturn the Democrat's victory don't stand a chance of succeeding and are merely the result of Mr Trump's refusal to accept that he lost.

But they've warned that the President's legal and public relations onslaught could inflict long-lasting damage on the nation's democratic system and shake the public's confidence in elections.

Before the meeting with the Michigan lawmakers, Mr Trump repeated his false claim that he defeated Mr Biden.

"I won, by the way. But, you know, we'll find that out," the President said during remarks on Friday to reporters on prescription-drug pricing.

Arranging meeting

Mr Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's personal attorney who's leading the campaign's legal push, was involved in arranging the Friday meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter.

On Friday morning, as Mr Shirkey left Detroit for Washington, he was surrounded by demonstrators at the airport who chanted "protect our votes".

Mr Chatfield defended his decision to attend, tweeting earlier on Friday: "No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it."

Mr Shirkey and Mr Chatfield had both earlier dismissed the idea of overruling voters to overturn Mr Biden's victory.

"That's not going to happen," Mr Shirkey told news outlet Michigan Bridge earlier this week.

Mr Chatfield said in a Nov 6 tweet that "whoever gets the most votes will win Michigan! Period. End of story."

'History will judge'

Michigan's Democratic congressional delegation said in a joint statement on Thursday evening that "history will judge" Mr Shirkey and Mr Chatfield "on whether they choose to acknowledge the results of the election and defend our democracy, or simply be loyal to one man".

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said on Friday on CNN that the state's election was secure.

"The voters have spoken and there's a procedure now that we're going through to certify those results," she said.

"Any attempts to interfere or obstruct that process is, you know, at the very least improper."

Ms Benson said the state board of canvassers is expected to meet on Monday to certify the results, telling CNN that every county in Michigan has submitted its certification to the state.

Mr Trump's legal team had earlier sought to stop Michigan from certifying the results, citing irregularities in Detroit, but dropped its lawsuit on Thursday morning.