Michigan certifies Biden win, Trump challenge thwarted again

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan election officials on Monday certified Democrat Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state, another setback for President Donald Trump in his futile effort to undermine the results of the Nov. 3 election through baseless legal challenges and unsupported claims of fraud.

The Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the results on a 3-0 vote with one abstention. Allies of Trump and losing GOP Senate candidate John James had urged the panel to delay a decision for two weeks so votes could be audited in heavily Democratic Wayne County, home to Detroit.

Biden defeated the president by more than 332,000 votes in the county. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters’ margin there was 322,000.

“The people of Michigan have spoken. President-elect Biden won the state of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement, saying it is “time to put this election behind us.”

The Trump legal team dismissed the certification as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would fight on. But the president’s efforts to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — is facing increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory.

Trump supporters in Michigan pinned their hopes on canvassing boards — obscure panels that meet after elections to determine results based on reports from local clerks. They have no power to audit results or investigate fraud allegations, a point emphasized by Aaron Van Langevelde, the Republican vice chair, during Monday’s state board meeting.

“The board’s duty today is very clear,” Van Langevelde said. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns. That is very clear. We are limited to these returns.”

He joined Democrats Jeannette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak in voting to certify the results.

Norman Shinkle, a Republican and former state senator, abstained after arguing that the panel was legally empowered to take more time and look into complaints. He raised numerous questions about Wayne County’s procedures and said Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had failed to fix chronic shortcomings with absentee ballot distribution and vote tabulation, among other problems.

“It is unacceptable that so many questions have been raised about the 2020 election,” Shinkle said. “There needs to be a thorough and full review of Michigan’s election process and procedures so this never happens again and we don’t have a nation watching and wondering what happened in Michigan.”

Others disputed his characterization, saying local election coordinators and staff had overcome daunting obstacles ranging from budget cuts to closed buildings and loss of family members to the coronavirus.

The state elections bureau “has not identified any irregularities this year, other than the typical, occasional human error that is always part of the process,” director Jonathan Brater said. “Overall, we had an extremely well-run and secure election.”

In sharp contrast to the typical canvassing board meeting, this one lasted about 8 1/2 hours, drawing more than 30,000 online viewers and hundreds of public comments that poured in long after the vote had been taken.

“It sometimes feels like officials are attempting to tear up my ballot right in front of me by stalling and recounting until they find a way to change the results,” said Wendy Gronbeck, a resident of Douglas. “I’ve been a voter for over 50 years, and I’ve never had to think about whether canvassers will certify an election.”

Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, told the canvassers that attacks on the election results “are part of a racist campaign, directed by soon-to-be former President Trump, to disparage the cities in this country with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.”

Michigan GOP chairman Laura Cox called for a certification delay, complaining that “there are too many questions… too many numerical anomalies and credible reports of procedural irregularities,” without offering examples.

“At every step this election process has been stacked against Republicans,” Cox said.

After the board’s vote, the Michigan Supreme Court denied an appeal from two GOP challengers who had sought to block Wayne County’s certification of its votes.

Benson said the decision meant that democracy had “survived an unprecedented attack on its integrity.”

Trump also has tried to defy the results of the election through the courts and by persuading lawmakers to ignore the popular vote and appoint Republican electors. That longshot, legally suspect bid is no longer possible in Michigan.

Trump met with top Michigan GOP legislators at the White House on Friday and tweeted over the weekend: “We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!”

Biden will receive all 16 of the state’s electoral votes. He won by 2.8 percentage points statewide — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results, such as Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The board also confirmed Peters’ 92,000-vote, or 1.7-percentage point, win over James, who has not conceded.

“The election is over and it’s time for everyone to move forward,” Peters said in a statement. “We need to come together as a state and country to address the pressing challenges facing us, starting with this unprecedented pandemic.”

Flesher reported from Traverse City. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Colleen Long in Washington contributed.

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