Just when you thought a Zoom session in 2020 couldn’t get any more agonizing, enter the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.
Yesterday afternoon, the board deadlocked 2-2 along party lines on certifying the election results in Michigan’s largest county. Then came hours of public comment from livid Wayne County residents and other observers, decrying Republican members of the board as racist and incompetent. Next, the Zoom meeting went dark. When it finally returned, the board announced it had reversed course, unanimously voting to certify the election results. It also demanded that the Michigan Secretary of State’s office do a “comprehensive audit” of “unexplained precincts.”
RELATED: Read Stephen Henderson’s essay, “Assault on Black Votes in Wayne County Reminiscent of Jim Crow”
Stephen Henderson sorts out what that all means and tries to understand the chaos of yesterday’s meeting with a couple of people involved in the situation from different perspectives.
Listen: Digging into the implications of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers Vote
Chris Thomas helped oversee voting and poll challenges in Detroit and was Michigan’s elections director for 36 years. In discussing how politics infiltrated the canvassing process, Thomas says “It’s all rather routine. Usually not a high-spirited affair… This year is way out of the ordinary.” Thomas also notes that Detroit often doesn’t have adequate resources for elections. “This year they’ve received resources. And with those resources, they’ve done some remarkable things,” he says.
“There has been so much made that is really over the top about this balance and imbalance issue. Yes, they should be balanced and everybody strives for balance, but just because it’s imbalanced doesn’t mean they won’t be recounted” says Thomas. “These audits would show no impropriety. They would essentially balance some of these precincts. We’ve done that before. It’s doing no more than what the county board staff ran out of time to do” says Thomas of the audits that GOP board members are demanding.
Ned Staebler is the President and CEO of TechTown Detroit. Last night, he made an impassioned speech in front of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers before Republicans on the board reversed course and voted to certify the election results. “Here was a public official saying the quiet part out loud, that she’d happily certify a city that’s 90% white, and not a city that’s 80% Black even though the problems [with vote counts] were bigger in the white community,” notes Staebler.