The Michigan board responsible for certifying the state’s election results has approved the votes from the 2020 election, despite Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine the outcome and delay president-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House.
A vote to certify the results moves Mr Biden closer to receiving the swing state’s 16 electoral college votes.
During a public hearing on Monday before the four-member board’s approval, a Republican member of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers deflected a GOP lawyer’s call to delay and audit the results.
“We have a duty to certify based on these returns, and we are limited to these returns,” said board member Aaron Van Langevelde, adding that there is “no language in the law” that granted the board authority to do so.
“We can’t create out of thin air an adjournment,” he said.
He later said that the board has “a clear legal duty to certify the results of the elections.”
"We cannot and should not go beyond that,” he said, adding that an audit could be performed, but not under the board’s authority.
The hearing drew international attention, transforming an otherwise routine procedural meeting into an intensely scrutinised event with thousands of viewers watching the three-hour-long meeting, after the president had tried to delay certifying results in a state he lost by roughly 154,000 votes. More than 5.5 million people voted in the fall election.
GOP board member Norm Shinkle abstained from voting, creating a 3-0 vote to certify the results.
“Democracy has prevailed,” Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson said in a statement. “Today’s vote … confirms the truth: the election was fair and secure, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters."
The hearing followed a series of electoral concerns in the state, including a deadlocked vote certifcation in Wayne County, the state’s largest county, which holds Detroit.
Monica Palmer, the Republican chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, had initially voted with another Republican canvasser against certifying the results, then relented. But they later sought to “rescind” their votes to certify the results after she received a call from the president.
Ms Palmer had initially suggested the county board certify the results without Detroit – a majority Black city where Mr Biden received roughly 90 per cent of the vote.
On Monday, Ms Palmer told the board that “in the heat of the moment” she didn’t realise a vote audit could not be performed before certification, otherwise she would not have certified.
But the pressure from the White House continued this month as the president invited several Michigan lawmakers to Washington DC, as legal analysts and voting rights advocates feared that the president was directly interfering with the election by seeking to delay the state’s certification.
Watchdogs also feared that the president was conspiring with GOP officials in state legislatures to appoint new electors to the electoral college to cast their vote in favour of the president, an effective legislative coup against the will of the voters.
GOP chair Ronna McDaniel and Michigan GOP chair Laura Cox, who also addressed the board on Monday, sent a letter to the board urging its members to delay their vote.
In a public comment period, former Michigan state senator Patrick Colbeck also amplified conspiracies that voting machines were internet-connected and ripe for fraud; in a statement, the state’s attorney general Dana Nessell confirmed that Mr Colbeck “has never made a complaint of election fraud” to her office.
Democratic attorney Mary Ellen Gurewitz said that attempts to overturn results in the state amounts to a “racist campaign” at Trump’s behest to disenfranchise Black voters.