Wayne County Disparities ‘Bookkeeping Errors:’ Michigan Secretary of State

Wayne County Disparities ‘Bookkeeping Errors:’ Michigan Secretary of State
Workers with the Detroit Department of Elections help organize absentee ballots at the Central Counting Board in the TCF Center in Detroit, Mich., on Nov. 4, 2020. (Elaine Cromie/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
The disparities in poll books from Wayne County, Michigan, that led two election officials to temporarily block certification of election results late Tuesday were mistakes, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday.

“What was identified were bookkeeping errors, simply incidents where voters may have showed up to a precinct but maybe have ultimately decided not to vote and leave, or perhaps ballots placed in an envelope that then should go through a machine, just different things that occurred throughout the day when you have a very high turnout election that oftentimes aren’t fully reflected in the bookkeeping,” Benson, a Democrat, said during a virtual appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”

Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chairwoman Monica Palmer and member William Hartmann, both Republicans, at first voted against certifying election results in the county on Nov. 17.

Palmer said she and Hartmann believe that they “do not have complete and accurate information in those poll books.”

The pair reversed their stance and joined the two Democrats on the panel in voting to certify the results on the condition that the secretary of state’s office conduct a comprehensive audit.

Benson called their concerns “baseless claims” that were “ultimately clerical errors that occur in nearly every election.”

She said that Hartmann and Palmer changed course after “the public spoke out and identified and amplified the truth.”

A request for an interview with Palmer and Hartmann sent to the county clerk wasn’t immediately returned.

According to Benson, there were more discrepancies in Wayne County in 2016 than in this year.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit, Mich., on Aug. 18, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit, Mich., on Aug. 18, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

“They chose to care about it in an election that Donald Trump lost rather than an election that Donald Trump won,” she said.

Unofficial results from Benson’s office show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a lead over President Donald Trump of more than 146,000 votes.

Trump and other Republicans cheered the initial Wayne County vote prior to the reversal.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox said in a statement: “I am proud that, due to the efforts of the Michigan Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign, enough evidence of irregularities and potential voter fraud was uncovered resulting in the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refusing to certify their election results. This action will allow more time for us to get to the bottom of these deeply troubling irregularities.”

The party didn’t return a voicemail on Wednesday asking for a response to the vote to certify.

Following the Wayne County vote, the Board of State Canvassers will vote to certify the election results.

Just like the county board, the state board has two Republicans and two Democrats.

Benson said she’s confident the state board will not deadlock.

“The State Board of Canvassers have a ministerial role and administrative role. And the law very clearly says that they shall certify the elections once the counties do so,” she said. “So they really don’t have a lot of wiggle room to overturn decisions that were made at the county level.”

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