Trump called two GOP officials before they tried to rescind their votes to certify election results

Trump called Republicans who voted to certify results in Wayne County, Michigan. Now, they want to rescind the vote

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 19, 2020 6:59PM (EST)

Donald Trump on the phone in the Oval Office (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
Donald Trump on the phone in the Oval Office (Getty Images/Alex Wong)

President Donald Trump personally called two Republican election officials in Michigan before they attempted to rescind their votes to certify results from Wayne County.

Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, tried to block the results of the vote in Detroit for hours on Tuesday. Palmer, the panel's Republican chair, said they would only back the certification of results in "communities other than Detroit," which has the largest Black population in the state.

Members of the public and election officials from around the state excoriated the Republican duo as "racist" during the virtual meeting. Hours later, the two eventually agreed to vote with Democrats to certify the results.

But on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann issued a statement through a firm, which has worked for the Trump campaign, saying they "remain opposed to certification" after all. The duo claimed that they had only voted to certify the results following "hours of sustained pressure."

The statement came after Trump called Palmer and Hartmann following the revised vote to "express gratitude for their support," according to the Associated Press. Hours later, the pair issued a statement declaring that the vote "should not be certified."

Palmer confirmed to The Washington Post that she "did receive a call from President Trump."

"He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxxing that had occurred," she said.

In their statement, Palmer and Hartmann said their decisions to change their votes followed "intimidation, deception and threats of violence."

But Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office said it was too late for the Republican officials to change their minds again.

"There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote. Their job is done, and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify," a spokesperson for Benson, a Democrat, told CBS News.

Palmer has argued that the result of the vote in Detroit should not be certified, because there were minor discrepancies between the number of people who signed in to vote and the number of ballots cast.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press conference on Wednesday that the "idea that the out-of-balance precincts reflects any problem with the voting is utter nonsense."

"At the end of the night, you add up the number of people who are reported in the poll book as having voted and the number of ballots" cast, he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "If they're off by one, that's called out-of-balance precinct, which is what they were discussing yesterday" at the Wayne County board meeting.

Duggan explained that machines sometimes make scanning errors, but that "doesn't mean there's anything wrong." Other times, voters may spoil their ballot and request a new one, but that is "not any indication of any voter fraud."

There were only 357 out-of-balance counts of about 250,000 votes cast in the city, according to Duggan. 

"If the presidential election in Michigan was decided by 100 votes, it would have made sense in the canvass to audit those 357. It might have changed the outcome," he said. "But Michigan was decided by 145,000 votes."

Instead, Trump has falsely argued that the discrepancy showed there were "far more votes than people" in the city. Duggan accused Trump and his supporters of playing to "people's worst racial prejudices" by targeting Detroit, where about 90% of residents are people of color.

Rev. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, who joined Duggan at the press conference, added the effort was part of a "pattern of racist attempts to disenfranchise Black voters" and "turn back the results," according to The Free Press.

There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in Michigan. In fact, of at least 30 election lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and Republican allies in six states, courts have not found a single instance of fraud, according to NBC News.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine School of Law, predicted that it would take a "court order to rescind a certification" in Wayne County. He noted that "the state has the power to certify the results" regardless.

"This is very dangerous for our democracy, as it is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters through political pressure from the president," Hasen wrote. "Even though it is extremely unlikely to work, it is profoundly antidemocratic and a violation of the rule of law."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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