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Michigan electors committed to Biden, despite Trump bid to overturn election

President Donald Trump continues to contest Michigan election results with false claims for fraud, but legal experts say there’s little he can do now to thwart the will of the voters when the state’s electors meet Dec. 14.

Meet the electors

1st district: Chris Cracchiolo of Williamsburg, businessman

2nd district: Tim Smith of Grand Haven, director of the Michigan Education Association

3rd district: Blake Mazurek of Grand Rapids, history teacher at Grandville Middle School

4th district: Bonnie Lauria of West Branch, retired auto worker

5th district: Bobbie Walton of Davison, retired government worker

6th district: Mark Miller of Kalamazoo Township, Kalamazoo Township clerk

7th district: Connor Wood of Jackson County, chair of Jackson County Democratic Party

8th district: Robin Smith of Lansing, school librarian

9th district: Walt Herzig of Ferndale, district director for U.S. House Rep. Andy Levin

10th district: Carolyn Holley of Port Huron, retired finance worker

11th district: Susan Nichols of Northville, attorney

12th district: Steven Rzeppa of Trenton, mayor of Trenton

13th district: Helen Moore of Detroit, community leader and retired social worker

14th district: Michael Kerwin of Detroit, retired auto worker

At-large: Marseille Allen of Flint Township, probation officer

At-large: Chuck Browning of Bloomfield Hills, UAW Region 1A director

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week sent a certificate of ascertainment — which appoints a slate of Democratic delegates to Joe Biden — after the Board of State Canvassers on Nov. 23 certified the Democrat’s 154,000-vote win over Trump.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani, on Wednesday asked activists to lobby Republican lawmakers to intervene to appoint their own slate of pro-Trump electors. That’s legally dubious and won’t happen, according to Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

That means Trump’s only option now is a major finding of fraud by the courts, which have dismissed several of his campaign’s lawsuits in Michigan, or a “military coup d’état,” said Steve Liedel, a Lansing-based lawyer who specializes in election law.

"There's really no question now that the vote has been certified, and that the electors have been notified, that there will be anything other than 16 electoral votes cast for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” he said. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Electoral College is the official body which elects the president and vice president. This means that when citizens cast ballots, they are actually voting for a slate of electors who then cast their votes for the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate. 

In Michigan, both the Democratic and Republican party have a slate of 16 electors: one from each of the state’s 14 congressional districts, and two at-large electors. Each state is allotted electoral votes based on the number of representatives in the House, plus two for its senators. 

The electors, who are typically party activists, are selected during party conventions in August. 

Michigan’s 16 electoral votes automatically go to the presidential candidate winning the popular vote. That means this year’s Republican delegates will be sitting out this election. 

On Dec. 14, the 16 Democratic electors will meet at 2 p.m. in the state Senate building in Lansing to formally cast their vote for president and vice president. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, meeting virtually is not an option due to language in the state constitution that mandates electors meet at the Capitol.

The same process will take place in each of the 50 states, with each slate of electors meeting in their respective state capitals to nominate either Biden or Trump for president, depending on the results of their state. 

The process is largely ceremonial. Michigan is one of 32 states, along with the District of Columbia, that bars “faithless” electors.  This means electors are required to cast their vote for a pledged candidate. If an elector fails to do so, their vote doesn't count and the elector is replaced. 

Liedel, the election law expert, said he doesn’t know of any cases in recent history of a rogue elector. 

The delegate role is an elected position. Both the Democratic and Republican parties chose their electors in August when they held conventions to officially nominate Biden and Trump as presidential candidates. They then sent an official list of names to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

Delegates are not politicians, but party organizers and activists who often participate on a grassroots level. 

The role “is an honor for someone who’s knocked on a lot of doors and done a lot of grunt work for the party over the years,” said Mark Miller, a Democratic elector representing Michigan’s 6th Congressional District who is also Kalamazoo Township clerk. 

While electors play a significant role in U.S. presidential elections, their only job is to cast a vote. After doing so, electors return to their previous positions within the party, and another election is held for the next set of electors.

After the Democratic electors cast their ballots for Biden on Dec. 14, the results will be delivered to Congress, which will then count all of the states’ electoral votes in a Jan. 6 joint session with the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. 

Vice President Mike Pence will then announce the winner of the election, the candidate who has received at least 270 electoral votes: President-elect Joe Biden. 

He’ll be sworn in on inauguration day, Jan. 20, when Trump’s presidency officially ends at noon. 

This article is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republishing policy.

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