MDP Letter to the Michigan Board of Canvassers

Board of State Canvassers
Michigan Department of State
Lansing, MI 48918

Dear Board Members: 

I write on behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party with a request: that on Monday, you carry out your responsibility under Michigan law to certify the results of the 2020 general election.  

This is a simple but fundamental step. Our system of government draws its power from the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box. That will, which lies at the foundation of the state and federal constitutions to which each of you—like every elected official in the State of Michigan—has sworn an oath, must be given effect.  

By any measure, the 2020 general election in Michigan was a remarkable achievement by municipal, county, and state election officials. More than 70% of eligible voters participated, marking the state’s highest participation rate since 1960; the turnout exceeded 5.5 million people, reflecting the highest number of Michiganders to vote in any statewide election. All of this took place in the midst of a global pandemic, this should be cause for commendation and celebration. 

Unfortunately, the incumbent President and his political party have decided to use the weeks following the election to spread falsehoods and to sow doubt about our state’s democratic process. Their fundamental concern, of course, is not with the process at all, but instead with its result—that more than 2.8 million Michiganders cast ballots for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, constituting 154,187 more votes than those cast for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. But they attempt to mask their actual concern with baseless allegations.   

Most of the claims of “irregularities and anomalies” have been dismissed by courts, after having been leveled in multiple lawsuits. In the words of one judge, the Republicans’ “interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.” Costantino v. City of Detroit, Case No. 20-014780 (3d Jud. Cir. Ct., Wayne Cnty.) (Kenny, C.J.).  

In addition to now raising recycled claims that have already failed in court, the Republican Party also purports to be concerned about the number of unbalanced precincts in Detroit, although there is no claim that these result from anything other than clerical error nor is there any claim that the vote total is affected by any imbalance. The total imbalance implicates at most 450 votes, i.e., 0.029% of the margin that separates President-Elect Biden from President Trump. The imbalance is also much smaller than it was in 2016. In that election, in which President Trump prevailed by 10,704 votes statewide, more than 58% of Detroit’s precincts had unexplained imbalances. This year, only 28% did. Certification was straightforward in 2016, just as it should be this year. The strength and dependability of our democracy does not depend on the identity of the prevailing candidates. 

In an effort to postpone the certification of the election results, the Republican Party now demands a pre-certification audit of Wayne County. The Board of State Canvassers, however, has no authority to order such an audit. Moreover, under state law, an audit will already occur—but its timing is tied to the completion of the Board’s work, such that any delay in the Board’s business will only serve to delay the audit. Mich. Comp. Laws s. 168.31a; see Michigan Post-Election Audit Manual. State law also provides that the audit “is not a recount and does not change any certified election results.” Mich.Comp.Laws s.168.31a (emphasis added).

The attempt to use an audit process to prevent certification of the election cannot be countenanced by this Board, lest it become an ingrained venue for post-election skirmishes. The administration of a democracy involving the participation of 5.5 million people is necessarily a complex undertaking; immaterial imperfections are studied and learned from, but they are not now and never have been a basis to cast aside the results of the election. Indeed, the post-2016 election audit in Detroit found that certain precincts were unbalanced because of human error; there was no evidence whatsoever of fraud. We are confident that this year’s audit will reveal the same.

Unlike the Republican Party, the Michigan Democratic Party is aware that there were other federal and state offices on the ballot as well. In some races, our party prevailed. In others, we did not. Those matters were decided at the polls, and we wish all of those chosen by Michiganders well. The certification process must not be manipulated to serve as some sort of retroactive referendum on the expressed will of the voters. That is simply not how democracy works.  

As a Michigander, a voter, and the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, I ask only what the people of Michigan deserve. The Board should follow state law and certify the clear results of the 2020 election so that the officials elected by the people of this state may get to work on the many challenges that await them.  

Sincerely,

Lavora Barnes
Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email