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19 Nov, 2020 09:53

Wayne County election board members ‘rescind’ vote certification, say they were bullied and tricked into approving results

Wayne County election board members ‘rescind’ vote certification, say they were bullied and tricked into approving results

The Republican half of the Wayne County election board wants to take back their signatures certifying the presidential election results. They say they were threatened with public ostracism and misled by the promise of an audit.

Wayne County, which includes Detroit and is the most populous in Michigan, became the focus of national politics this week. On Tuesday night, its four-member election board was split along partisan lines during a session convened to certify the results of the presidential election, which favored Democrat Joe Biden. The Republicans refused, citing irregularities, but hours later they made a U-turn, much to the chagrin of President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Less than 24 hours later, both officials made yet another about-face, and now state in affidavits that they believe the vote should not have been certified in the first place. It was not immediately clear if the previous night’s compromise would be nullified, but the development clearly opens the door for litigation.

According to the affidavits signed by Monica Palmer and William C. Hartmann, over 70 percent of the Detroit Absentee Voter Count Board (AVCB) was out of balance with the voter books, many inexplicably so.

The same discrepancies were present during the August primary election and were not fixed in the months since, which, Palmer and Hartmann say, is why they initially voted not to certify.

Following the deadlock, there was a two-hour public reaction period, during which the two Republicans were subjected to “harsh comments,” many of them via Zoom.

“The comments made accusations of racism and threatened me and members of my family,” Palmer said. According to Hartmann, the two “were berated and ridiculed by members of the public and other Board members.”

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The pressure was not limited to disparaging remarks. The Detroit Free Press said the election board site was spammed with messages containing personal details of the dissenting Republicans and links to their social media pages with the apparent goal “to create offline consequences” for Palmer and Hartmann. Some people who were outraged by the holdup called for the places where the two work to be found out and revealed, while one commenter offered a reward for anyone willing to confront them in person.

There was also similarly vicious pushback against Democratic representative-elect Abraham Aiyash. One of the online critics, he accused Palmer of “deciding to enable and continuing to perpetuate the racist history of this country,” and suggested that she should think about what that means for her kids and their future interactions with black schoolmates. The remarks went viral and were interpreted by many as a threat against Palmer’s family, causing a wave of anger against Aiyash.

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The two Republicans say that after the hours of harassment, they were convinced to certify the results by the promise of a full audit from their Democratic colleagues. Later, they learned that the resolution to conduct the audit is not binding.

Following the Tuesday vote, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson went on CNN to declare that “there were no irregularities” in the Wayne County vote and that there was no valid reason to invalidate the results.

Trump claims the election was “stolen” from him thanks to “widespread fraud,” and is battling the outcome through petitions for recounts and lawsuits. On Wednesday, his campaign paid $3 million to cover the cost of double-checking the canvassing results in the Wisconsin counties of Milwaukee and Dane, both of which went strongly for Biden.

So far, the effort has failed to tip the balance in any significant way. The incumbent president has been criticized by many public figures, including members of the Republican Party, for refusing to concede and further polarizing the US.

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