GOP state leaders brush off idea to hand Trump election by replacing electors
A breathtaking turn of events in Michigan's largest county on Tuesday evening indicated a possible nightmare scenario of a coordinated effort to override the will of voters nationwide or on other major battlefields.
The chaotic hours in Wayne County came from two Republican board members - Monica Palmer, who serves as chair of the Board of Canvassers, and William Hartmann - who initially refused to confirm the county's election results, which has been sharply criticized for being overtly partisan to reverse course a few hours later.
The decision left the board temporarily stuck 2-2. Palmer cited concerns that certain districts were "out of whack" or found inconsistencies. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson later made it clear that the discrepancies were typographical errors and not signs of voting irregularities.
The unprecedented move to temporarily block certification of results in Wayne County, home of Detroit, a city where nearly 80% of the population is black, sparked hours of public outrage from voters, volunteers, election workers, and local officials . Members of the public who attended the Tuesday evening meeting viewed the move as an obvious, targeted effort to repress African American voters and a hyper-political delay in the process of confirming Joe Biden's victory in the state.
PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden shows the crowd after delivering a speech in Wilmington, Delaware on Nov. 7, 2020. (Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images)
Ann Arbor's Ned Staebler slapped the two GOP board members when the meeting opened for public comment, calling them "completely racist and without an understanding of what integrity means or a bit of human decency".
"The law is not on your side, history will not be on your side, your conscience will not be on your side," he said.
The board eventually withdrew and unanimously approved the findings - in line with the state's other 82 counties - but also directed the state's top electoral officer to conduct a full audit of the imbalanced counties.
Despite the U-turn, the drama fueled fears that the Trump campaign could coordinate efforts across critical battlefields to undermine the democratic process by pressuring GOP-controlled lawmakers to override the will of the people and their own list of pro-Trump voters to vote for the president at the December electoral college meeting.
PHOTO: Members of the Board of Canvassers unanimously vote for the confirmation of election results in Wayne County, Michigan on November 16. 2020. (WXYZ)
"Confirmation of the election is not at discretion," said Jonathan Kinloch, Democratic vice chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.
He also said he was concerned about the upcoming State Board of Canvassers vote on the Monday following Tuesday's spectacle.
"We have to do our job," he added.
President Donald Trump's allies have addressed this unlikely final move to change Tuesday's election result amid the chaos in Michigan.
MORE: Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump as president in bitter and historic elections
Jenna Ellis, senior legal advisor to the Trump campaign, wrote, "Tonight, the County Board of Canvassers in Wayne County, MI, refused to approve the election results. If the state board follows suit, Republican lawmakers will become the voters select huge victory for @realDonaldTrump. "
It's a scheme rooted in the ambiguity of federal law. The constitution gives state lawmakers the power to determine "the manner in which presidential elections are chosen," writes Richard Hasen, campaign expert and professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine, with almost every state except two the people use voting and a winner-take-all system to divide the voters. Nebraska and Maine give two voters to the statewide winner and one to the winner in each congressional district.
"In theory, state lawmakers could try to use part of the Electoral Count Act to declare that voters did not make a choice for the president, which gives lawmakers the right to vote," writes Hasen. "But voters made a choice, and there is no plausible argument that fraud or irregularity infected that election. For state lawmakers to do this, we are out of the realm of legal arguments and into bare power politics, where the election of the president lies. " would be duked in Congress. "
States have until the "Safe Harbor" date, December 8th, to confirm election results before voters across the country gather to officially vote for the president.
PHOTO: President Donald Trump listens during a phone conversation in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Aug. 27, 2018 (Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images, FILE)
Before Ellis brought the idea to market, the Trump campaign previously tried to publicly distance itself from this scenario. The prospect of Michigan law interfering in a process in which they are not a party under state law was not publicly welcomed at Lansing.
Michigan Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey overturned the idea to Bridge Michigan, a local news agency, saying they won't give Trump the state's 16 voters.
"That won't happen," he said.
A spokesman for the Senate majority leader also reiterated that the law does not allow lawmakers to intervene and select voters directly or to assign voters to anyone other than the referendum winner.
Biden currently has a significant lead over Trump on the battlefield, leading with nearly 150,000 votes, almost 15 times the President's lead over Hillary Clinton in 2016. The State Board will approve the election results on November 23.
The heads of state in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin also distance themselves from any possible strategy to bypass the referendum - against the background of a president who relentlessly attacks the electoral process, with unfounded accusations of fraud and a multitude of legal maneuvers that are mostly neglected in court.
In Pennsylvania, where Biden's edge currently ranks more than 80,000 votes, Republican leaders give no credit to claims that lawmakers have constitutional powers to intervene in voter selection.
"The Pennsylvania General Assembly has and will not have a hand in selecting the state's presidential election or determining the outcome of the presidential election," Senate majority leader Jake Corman and House majority leader Kerry Beninghoff wrote in an October comment .
MORE: Trump challenges the election "designed to damage and disenfranchise," says Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor
"To suggest otherwise is to inappropriately scare the Pennsylvania electorate - or indeed it is - with an imaginary scenario not provided for in law anywhere. Pennsylvania law clearly states that state voters can only be won by the referendum of Commonwealth voters to be chosen." They write.
PHOTO: Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman introduces Governor Tom Wolf during an opening ceremony in Harrisburg, Pa., Jan. 15, 2019. (Mark Makela / Getty Images, FILE)
Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who is a Democrat, also assured that he and Governor Tom Wolf are not worried that the state's Republican legislature might improve the election result.
"Everyone just needs to take a deep breath," Fetterman told ABC News' Powerhouse Politics podcast on Wednesday. "Everyone knows how this film will end - everyone knows, including the President."
The certification deadline for Pennsylvania also falls on November 23, but Wednesday was the last day the Commonwealth Secretary could request a recount, which could only be triggered if the candidates' margin was within half a percent of each other. The secretary said last week there would be no recount.
MORE: Important deadlines and dates for certification after the election
Further south in Georgia, where the state is finalizing a statewide review of 4.9 million votes before the certification deadline on November 20, the president on Wednesday morning called on Republican Governor Brian Kemp to "consult lawmakers," following Biden with at least 12,000 Be right.
But Kemp, along with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and State House Speaker David Ralston, both Republicans, said in a statement last week that changes to the state's electoral laws in a special session - the legislature is not currently in session - would not affect this year's election .
"Changes to Georgian electoral laws made in a special session have no impact on the ongoing elections and would only lead to endless litigation," the statement said. "We share the same concerns that many Georgians have about the integrity of our elections. Therefore, we will monitor and recount the upcoming audit and work together to make the elections in Georgia safe, accessible and fair."
In Wisconsin, where the Trump campaign called for a partial recount because just over 20,000 votes separated the president and his Democratic rival, senior state electoral officials told ABC News that there was no way lawmakers could upset or invalidate election results.
"I am not aware that there is any way to do this. I think that would require court intervention. I don't think lawmakers can do anything along those lines," said Meagan Wolfe, the principal electoral officer of the Wisconsin Election Commission.
Wisconsin State Assembly spokesman Robin Vos said there likely wasn't enough evidence of irregularities to dismiss the election results, but they were conducting an investigation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"I think it is unlikely that we will find enough fraud to topple the election," said Vos. "I think it's unlikely, but I don't know. That's why you have an investigation."
Jeff Mandell, an attorney who runs Law Forward, an impartial, not-for-profit litigation firm in Wisconsin, also said there is no way for the Wisconsin State Legislature, which consists of a Senate and a state assembly, to change the results - Despite comments from Republicans like Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, who said the state should make changes to election results or processes when casting votes, the investigation should identify issues with the election, according to the Journal Sentinel.
"Under Wisconsin and federal law, Biden won the most votes in the state of Wisconsin, and he has the right to and will get 10 Wisconsin votes. And that is what the law makes pretty clear. And there is none Way around, "he said.
PHOTO: Meghan Wolfe is pictured in her official profile picture as the Wisconsin Elections Director. (Wahlen.wi.gov)
Mandell believes that not even the election investigation hearings in the legislature can turn the results upside down.
"There is nothing wrong with legislative oversight. This is a perfect part of the legislature's work. The place where it gets tricky and inappropriate is to the extent that someone is suggesting its proper use for legislative oversight purposes in this case It's about reversing the election results. Legislative scrutiny is about studying what happened and figuring out what we can learn to make the law better for the future, "he said.
The counties had to finish their canvases by Tuesday and the state has until December 1 to confirm the results.
MORE: The Electoral College: How Presidents Are Elected
In Arizona, where lawmakers are not involved in confirming the results or voting for voters, according to a spokesman for the Secretary of State, Biden is ahead of the president with around 11,000 votes.
Rusty Bowers, the spokesman for the Republican House in Arizona, also opposed any possible conspiracy in which lawmakers disrupted the state's voters, according to the Associated Press.
"I don't see any fraud that I haven't heard of. I don't see us seriously about changing voters," he said. "You are legally obliged to vote according to the popular vote."
Republican attorney general Mark Brnovich insisted in an interview with Fox Business last week that he was convinced of the election results and while legal action is still pending in at least one county, it will do little to change the county's voting Confirm results by November 23.
"There is no evidence, there is no fact that would lead anyone to believe that the election results will change," he said. "And if there was indeed a big conspiracy, it doesn't seem to have worked since the county electoral officer - who was a Democrat - lost and other Republicans won. What really happened - it came down to it - people got their ticket split . "
ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett and Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.
GOP heads of state are wiping off the idea of casting Trump elections by replacing voters who originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
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