'An Insane Version of Groundhog Day ': What to Know About the Election Drama in Wayne County, Michigan

Virginia Chamlee
·4 min read

Robin Buckson/Detroit News via AP Some of the Wayne County, Michigan, board of canvassers

"The law isn't on your side. History won't be on your side. Your conscience will not be on your side and — Lord knows — when you go to meet your maker, your soul is going to be very, very warm."

Clad in a bright-orange shirt and speaking in front of a Zoom background featuring a Diego Rivera mural, Michigan businessman Ned Staebler's words weren't typical of the conversation usually heard in a board of canvassers meeting about election results.

But this was no typical meeting.

The contentious forum held Tuesday night in Wayne County, Michigan, saw the local four-person board initially deadlocked in a two-to-two partisan vote, with the Republicans declining to certify results in the county.

Wayne, home to Detroit and some of its suburbs, saw large margins for Joe Biden that helped him win the state over Donald Trump.

During a public comment period at Tuesday's meeting, Staebler — a university official and the CEO of Michigan startup hub TechTown — was one of many to direct their ire at the two Republicans: William Hartmann and Monica Palmer.

"The secretary of state and attorney general have already tweeted out that your legal arguments are rubbish and you're going to lose," Staebler said.

Following widespread backlash to their initial resistance and after reaching an agreement about an audit of the ballot totals, Hartmann and Palmer reversed course, voting to certify the county's election results, thereby pushing Biden one step closer to victory.

But then, some 12 hours later, the duo reversed course yet again.

RELATED: Inside Trump’s Inner Circle as White House Defeat Forces Them to Confront What’s Next

On Wednesday morning, both Hartmann and Palmer signed affidavits claiming they had been pressured to certify the results of Wayne County's elections and would therefore like to rescind their decision.

The change came after Palmer had received a call from the president himself, though she told the Washington Post that Trump didn't pressure her to backtrack. (It's unclear if Hartmann received a similar call, and requests for comment were not returned.)

Their flip-flop won't have any impact on the certification, however, according to Michigan's secretary of state.

"There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote," said the Michigan secretary of state's office in an emailed statement to PEOPLE. "Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet next Monday and certify."

RELATED: Trump Legal Adviser Previously Called Him an ‘Idiot’ and a 'Bully’ but Now Says ‘I Was Completely Wrong’

The facts haven't halted team Trump, with lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani telling reporters on Thursday that the campaign had withdrawn its federal lawsuit in Michigan, falsely claiming the state had halted the certification of votes in Wayne County. (When a reporter told him that wasn't true, he responded dismissively.)

The drama in Wayne County is emblematic of the Trump campaign's larger efforts: to contest an election the president is projected to have lost by a margin of 306 to 232.

With just weeks to go before the Electoral College meets, the president's team is making every effort to stymie the process and toss out votes or halt certification in the states Biden won. In Michigan, Biden is projected to have won by approximately 150,000 votes, according to the Associated Press.

Though Trump's campaign has filed a number of lawsuits across the country contesting the results, it has so far not been very successful when it comes to proving that the election was rife with "fraud," as the president has repeatedly claimed.

Elsewhere, he and his team have offered shifting allegations about why Biden won.

On Thursday one of his attorneys told reporters the election had been rigged in part by international communist money as Giuliani laid the blame with a "centralized" cabal operating nationwide.

Trump has not yet accepted the reality of his defeat, instead pivoting to increasingly anti-democratic attempts to overturn the election. Meanwhile Biden continues to prepare to take office in January — criticizing the reluctance as "embarrassing" and damaging to the country's security.

RELATED: Barack Obama Implores Donald Trump to Look 'Beyond' His Ego and 'Put the Country First'

On Thursday afternoon, ABC News reported that Trump requested a visit with two Michigan lawmakers — Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield — with whom he planned to meet on Friday.

The news comes as members of the Trump campaign have grown increasingly vocal in their hopes that the state's GOP-controlled legislature will override the will of the people and select its own electors to vote for the president at the upcoming meeting of the Electoral College.

So far, that, too, seems like a lost cause — one perhaps best summed up by Wayne County Democratic canvasser Jonathan Kinloch, who spoke with the Bridge Michigan news outlet on Thursday.

“This goose is cooked,” Kinloch told Bridge. “It just seems like an insane version of Groundhog Day.”