GOP leaders: We’ll abide by popular vote, won’t give Michigan to Trump

Michigan's Legislature is investigating complaints about voting irregularities, but GOP leaders say they won't ignore the popular vote in awarding the state's 16 electors to the Electoral College. That narrows President Trump's already long odds of a second term. (Bridge file photo)

Nov. 17 update: Joe Biden won, Michigan elector coup ‘not going to happen,’ GOP leader says

LANSING — Leaders in Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature have not yet called Joe Biden the president elect, but they’re making clear that they will not change the electoral process to benefit President Donald Trump even as they probe alleged election “irregularities,”

“Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes,” said Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. 

The law is clear on that front: Michigan must award its 16 representatives to the Electoral College to the winner of the popular vote, and unofficial results show Joe Biden won the state by nearly 150,000 votes, a margin roughly 14 times larger than Trump’s win here in 2016. 

But the U.S. Constitution also appears to give Legislatures the exclusive authority to decide how to award electors, and GOP pundits like Mark Levin of Fox News have urged battleground state lawmakers to bypass the popular vote and decide the election for Trump, who has falsely claimed he won Michigan and sued to try and block certification of the results. 

“REMINDER TO THE REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATURES, YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY OVER CHOOSING ELECTORS,” Levin wrote in a post that Twitter partially blocked because of disputed and potentially misleading content. “SO, GET READY TO DO YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY.”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany promoted Levin’s theory on Twitter, calling it “INSANE” that the social media site would block it. Local activists and the Michigan Conservative Coalition have encouraged lawmakers to follow Levin’s advice.  

And on Wednesday, the president himself reportedly pressed his top advisers on whether Republican Legislatures could pick pro-Trump electors in a handful of key states to deliver him a second term.

Both Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, have already backed away from that possibility.

“Every single legal vote needs to be counted, regardless of who cast it or who they voted for,” Chatfield, R-Levering said last week in a statement announcing a legislative inquiry into the election.“And then the candidate who wins the most of those votes will win Michigan’s electoral votes, just like it always has been. Nothing about that process will change in 2020.” 

That means Trump’s already limited options to fighting Michigan’s election results are now even more remote. His campaign and supporters have filed five lawsuits to delay certification of the Michigan election, which he lost to Biden by 146,000 votes. He’s already lost one suit, and experts say he’s unlikely to prevail in others.

The State Board of Canvassers is expected to consider certifying the election Nov. 23. If it does, Trump would have 48 hours to request a recount.

Democrats and other critics have accused the GOP-led Legislature of legitimizing Trump conspiracy theories by launching an inquiry into the Nov. 3 election and using unprecedented subpoena power to request state election records. And they’ve urged Republicans to be more explicit about awarding the state’s electors to Biden. 

“Michigan Republican legislative leaders must fervently declare that the Legislature has no role in the Electoral College process and any interference is unlawful and unconstitutional,” House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, said in a Thursday statement.

 “The will of the people must be respected.” 

Bridge Michigan has repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested interviews with both Chatfield and Shirkey this week.

Shirkey defended the legislative probe in a Tuesday morning radio interview with WKHM in Jackson, arguing additional oversight could build faith in the democratic process. 

“Though there are some irregularities and some anecdotal stories that I believe deserve some analysis, I very seriously doubt it’s going to change the outcome in Michigan,” he said. 

Shirkey said he has “no clue” what will happen in other states like Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Trump is also contesting results. But he added: “I suspect we’re going to end up with a President Biden. And we should roll up our sleeves and figure out how to get on with life from here.”

In a Thursday email sent Senate Republican supporters, Shirkey said the “election is far from behind us” and wrote that claims of possible voter fraud keep him “up at night.” But he again stressed that the legislative probe is not likely to change the outcome in Michigan. 

“At the very least, we must look at statutory changes to protect the integrity of this new reality of large numbers of mail-in votes,” he said. “Our democracy is at stake.” 

Electoral College

The U.S. Constitution established an Electoral College, 538 electors who meet every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president.  Each state gets a certain number of electors, based on population. 

Most states require those electors to vote for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. 

In Michigan, each major political party nominates its own electors, and then one of those slates is appointed to the Electoral College based on the popular vote, as certified by the Secretary of State. Once the Board of State Canvassers confirms results, the governor “shall” send the names of all Michigan electors to the U.S. Secretary of State. 

This year, the process relies on results being finalized by Dec. 8, a “safe harbor” date established by Congress to avoid disputes at the Electoral College, whose members will officially vote in the Michigan Legislature and other state Capitols on Dec. 14. 

As Bridge reported last month, Democratic attorneys were already preparing for what they considered a doomsday scenario: an Electoral College coup by the GOP-led Legislature.  But even then, they called it a long shot. 

“I have a very hard time believing that enough elected legislators are going to thwart the will of the people of this state to send a slate of electors that’s inconsistent with the way people voted,” said Sam Bagenstos, a University of MIchigan law professor and former Democratic Party nominee for the state Supreme Court.  

To date, there has not been any clear push in the Michigan Legislature, even among Republicans who have echoed Trump’s concerns about the integrity of the election. 

GOP lawmakers including Sen. Pete Lucido of Shelby Township and Rep. Michelle Hoitenga of Manton have told constituents they don’t have the authority to pick their own electors.

“State law is very clear about the process for presidential electors, and the Legislature does not have the authority to change it unilaterally,” Hoitenga wrote on Facebook last week. “Michigan’s Constitution requires new laws to be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.”

State Sent. Tom Barrett of Charlotte and Lana Theis of Brighton on Thursday urged Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to conduct an official audit of the Nov. 3 election before certifying the statewide results.

Ongoing county canvasses, which will be followed by a statewide canvass, effectively function as audits, and Benson’s office was already planning a post-election risk-limiting audit.

In their request, Barrett and Theis cited a “purported software glitch” with Dominion Voting Systems tabulating machines in Antrim County, where the clerk has acknowledged initially inaccurate vote counts were the result of human error, not machine.

Some GOP lawmakers have been more openly skeptical about unsubstantiated claims from Trump and his supporters. 

“We will do everything we can to investigate and prosecute voter fraud in this state, however, most of the stories going around are simply not accurate,” state Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant, wrote on Facebook

State Sen. Ed McBroom, who chairs the Senate Oversight Committee that is probing the Michigan election results, has urged residents not to spread rumors without clear facts. 

“One candidate seems to be willing to pour gas on every potential fear and doubt about the integrity of the system while the other seems uninterested in some very troubling reports and witness testimony,” McBroom wrote on Facebook last week. “Neither of these responses is right and both cause harm although any inciting to unrest or violence is absolutely detestable.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Grow Up!
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 11:39am

Get the lead out! We the People voted. There are no irregularities that have not been explained or addressed. Stop this nonsense.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 12:00pm

Chatfield, the son of a Christian preacher, is really setting a bad example for his children.

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 5:24pm

How so? I believe he said he would not try to go against the popular vote.

Ha Ha
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 2:50pm

Republicans crying "irregularities"? Hilarious.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 3:20pm

Trump can just go to the US Senate then and have them decide who wins! Checkmate!

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 4:04pm

I see no reason to argue with an audit conducted by Benson's office. I have no concern whatsoever that the result we have now will be the result after such an audit. Elections are regularly examined and confirmed and this one should be no different.

However, I disagree with McBroom's position; the candidate that appears unconcerned has the exact correct attitude. Federal authority has no place in MI's (or any other state's) elections. That Biden is unconcerned is the correct position for a candidate for federal office with faith in the election. Even if he had concerns, the correct way to raise them is in courts, not by stirring unrest among his supporters.

Joe Biden has made clear why he is the choice of MI and the rest o fthe nation. He knows what it means to govern and I have faith, despite differences I have with his policy agenda, that he will be a President and not whatever Trump has been.
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 4:43pm

How magnanimous of the Republicans. They'll "give Michigan" to somebody. It's not theirs to give. Voters do that. That's their problem exactly. They've been on Trumps payroll too long.

Dana Hartsock
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 4:48pm

Just because you shout something loud enough and often does not make it true. Bring an end to the 4 year reign of the 5 year old "acting" President. The rest of the Republican contingent in Congress seems to have regressed to about the same age.

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 8:44am

What's taking so long?

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 9:17am

It sounds like the Republicans want a medal for following the law and doing the will of the people who voted for Biden.

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 10:05am

This is excellent news! Thanks to Bridge for digging into it, and thanks to Michigan GOP legislators for not being fringe conspiracy theorists. Hopefully this is how it plays out in the other deciding states as well. Your candidate losing doesn't mean there was something wrong with the election. We on the left had to accept that when Hillary lost in a close election, now people on the right need to accept it and move on as well.

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 11:07am

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires an election by the people for president. The job to choose a president is given to the State legislatures who can make law within a State to choose how the electoral votes of their State will be awarded. The people are represented by the Representatives at both the State and Federal level, as they are elected by the people. Don't like the system? Amend the Constitution at either the State or Federal level or both. Prior to 1913, Federal senators were chosen by the State legislatures. The 17th Amendment changed that to allow the people to directly elect the senators.

Lawn order
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 1:20pm

And with this comment and others, we see that the GOP doesn't like democracy!! Or even a democratic Republic!

This should for ever put an END to the debate about how conservatives only want a "fair and legal vote".

Here take this column:

This guy wants to make it harder to vote. And Arjay wants the elites in DC to take over the electing of Presidents for the people, as long as he gets to decide who those elites are, don't ya Arjay?

Too bad the MI constitution doesn't allow it! Or do you think the GOP will be working on that post haste!

If you can't sell your ideas to the people, steal it all!!!

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 12:04pm

There are almost 300 people at the million MAGA Trump rally in DC today! LMAO

Give it up, LOSERS!

Gary Lea
Sat, 11/14/2020 - 7:42pm

Second place isn't losing.

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 8:28pm

Actually they have three ways to go though for some reason they either don't know it or just won't admit it.
1. Certify a fraudulent election and give the Electoral College delegates to Biden. (Next primary election you will probably be voted out)
2. Refuse to certify a fraudulent election and give the Electoral College delegates to Trump
3. Stand mute, do nothing which will send the election to Congress where Trump will be reelected in the House. President Trump has 26 votes, Biden only 20. Trump will be reelected.

Charlie Day
Mon, 11/16/2020 - 7:02pm

You need to rephrase #1 "Next primary election you will probably be voted out" to "Civil war ensues and everyone realizes that coronavirus was nothing compared to anarchy everywhere"

You don't want that
Tue, 11/24/2020 - 11:51pm

Cause I shoot straighter than you do.

If I was you? I would take a hard pass. I shot bow and arrows...........and shot guns with your kind.

The teacher never believed me...........till he saw my arrows buried in the target. And as for the skeet?

There was never any questions.

Sun, 11/15/2020 - 6:20am

A full recount and verification process should be conducted immediately, there have been enough eyewitness accounts of irregularities to justify this. The fact that Democrats are resisting this is more proof that they're worried that illegal activities would be found. As they've said, if you have nothing to hide why would you not encourage a verification. If there is no fraud, then an investigation should be welcome.

If on a full, fair and transparent recount and verification Biden still has more votes then our EC votes should go to him.

In the last Presidential election many heavily Democrat areas had more votes cast and counted than they had recorded voters. There is no reason to think this has stopped this election.

Without a transparent recount there will continue to be questions about the validity of the election.

Sun, 11/15/2020 - 6:39am

Just maybe we need to go with the popular vote. Yes it has drawbacks but the150 million people have spoken. R.L.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:10pm

Ahhhh.....It sounds like liberals still a little butthurt from 2016. Nothing makes my day better than waking up to the pitiful whinings of the democrat class. Methinks "USA Vet" has indeed done his homework. All The Electors have to do is simply NOT certify anything and thus NO candidate gets the votes and it goes to The House in DC to declare the next President. Aging ol' hippy trippy pelosi and her libs ain't got the numbers for the delegates needed and thus VIOLA Trump is Re-Elected!

Coo Coup
Wed, 11/25/2020 - 1:16am

Didn't happen!

Liberty and the rule of those who would be governed maybe will be? If you don't now complain about being in the minority..........which the majority and the press has to understand of course...........because you have been handed the underhand, unlike racial or religious minorities. As long as you all get to dicriminate against gays........and NO ONE ELSE, other wise it wouldn't be a legal religiously held personal belief.

Does that hurt your senses?

I have some serious cognitive dissonance going on right now.

Is anyone willing to challenge my personal sincerely held religious beliefs?