By KENDALL KARSON, KATHERINE FAULDERS and WILL STEAKIN, ABC News
(DETROIT) — Michigan’s election certification process just got messier. The two Republicans on the Wayne County board of canvassers are now seeking to rescind their decision to certify their county’s results, a day after the deadline, in a pair of affidavits signed late Wednesday night.
The evening before the two Republican canvassers on the Wayne County elections board signed the affidavits, President Donald Trump spoke with both Monica Palmer and William Hartmann on Tuesday after the second vote to certify the results, sources tell ABC News.
It’s not immediately clear if the latest move to reverse their votes was discussed. ABC News has reached out to both Palmer and Hartmann.
Palmer, who is the chair of the board, told the Detroit Free Press that she spoke with the president about the threats to her safety.
“He was checking to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing,” she said, without saying to the outlet if she discussed her decision on Wednesday to rescind her final vote.
The two GOP members on the county board of canvassers disavowed their decision to certify their county’s results, a day after the deadline, in a pair of affidavits signed late Wednesday night.
Both Palmer, the Republican chair of the county board, and Hartmann, a Republican member, said after they initially voted against certifying the results, they were “enticed” Tuesday into affirming the election results after they said they were given assurances by the board’s vice chairman, Jonathan Kinloch, that the votes would be independently audited.
When asked late Tuesday night if she would commit to a comprehensive audit, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, hedged and only said she would look into it.
Kinlock confirmed to ABC News that he gave this assurance but added that he had been unable to reach the secretary of state on Tuesday night to get her commitment.
A spokesperson for the secretary of state is shooting down the possibility of the two Republican members rescinding their vote, saying it is out of their hands at this point.
“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” the spokesperson said. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.”
The number of votes at issue is too small to influence the outcome of the election. President-elect Joe Biden currently holds a substantial edge over Trump in Michigan, leading by nearly 150,000 votes, which is almost 15 times the president’s margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Wayne County, the state’s largest, Biden is ahead by over 300,000 votes with nearly 70% of the vote.
Nevertheless, the two GOP members, suggesting that they feel misled, are now reverting to the earlier positions, arguing that they still have too many concerns about what they called “out of balance” precincts in Detroit, in which the number of votes cast and the number of voters signed in at the polls are mismatched, to certify. They both said that in their review of the results, more than 70% of Detroit’s 134 poll books “were left unbalanced,” –which according to the Detroit News, also happened during the certification process in the August primary and the November 2016 election, but did not keep the board from certifying.
Benson said that the discrepancies are common clerical errors with the paperwork and not signs of irregularities in the vote tally, such as a voter spoiling a ballot, or showing up and then not voting.
“I rescind my prior vote to certify Wayne County elections,” Palmer wrote in the affidavit.
“I voted not to certify, and I still believe this vote should not be certified,” Hartmann wrote in his affidavit. “Until these questions are addressed, I remain opposed to certification of the Wayne County results.”
Kinloch, a Democrat, pushed back against this latest maneuver by his Republican colleagues, saying that the vote to certify “is final.”
“It is a wasted attempt to unravel a lawful vote, in order to calm the Republican rancor we all knew would occur after they left the meeting. This certification is secure from yellow belly politricks, which are trying to reverse Donald Trump’s misfortune in Michigan,” he told ABC News early Thursday morning. “Upon certifying the election, we took a subsequent vote to waive reconsideration of the certification vote. It is final, this goose is cooked.”
It is not clear whether the compromise vote on Tuesday night was binding or could be reversed — or if even this latest change of heart could halt the ongoing certification process. It’s also unclear if the two Republican members officially signed any of the necessary paperwork to formalize their previous decision to certify.
“The two harassed patriot Canvassers refuse to sign the papers!” President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, an early sign of a possible fight over whether the GOP members signed documents related to the certification.
ABC News has reached out to the Wayne County board of elections, and the two Republican members of the board, to confirm that all four board members officially signed any necessary documents related to certifying the result but did not hear back as of Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a chaotic few hours unfolded when Palmer and Hartmann initially refused to certify the county’s election results, which was widely criticized as a partisan move, only to change their votes later that same night.
The Republicans said they felt pressured by the “public ostracism,” as Hartmann put it, and by the threats against them and their family members, as Palmer wrote in her affidavit.
“The public comment continued for over two hours and I felt pressured to continue the meeting without a break,” Palmer wrote.
The unprecedented step to temporarily block the certification of results in Wayne County, which is home to Detroit, a city where Black residents make up nearly 80% of the population, prompted hours of public outrage from voters, volunteers, poll workers and local officials.
Benson announced on Wednesday, prior to the affidavits being filed, that all 83 counties certified the results. The state board of canvassers is set to meet on Nov. 23 to finalize the results statewide.
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