Wayne County canvasser: I sought to 'protect' Detroit vote, ‘not be racist’

President Donald Trump has falsely claimed for weeks that he won Michigan, a state he lost by 146,000 votes. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Wayne County commissioners may soon demand the resignations of two Republican canvassers who initially refused to certify the county’s election this week before relenting under intense criticism.

Commission Chairwoman Alicia Bell, D-Detroit, told Bridge Michigan late Wednesday she has drafted resolutions seeking to “censure and rebuke, in the strongest possible terms” GOP canvassers Monica Palmer of Grosse Pointe Woods and William Hartman of Wyandotte and demand their immediate resignations.

“It’s really uncalled for and reprehensible for people in their positions to forsake their responsibilities and not do the right thing,” Bell said.

Related stories:

The resolution claims the two acted “in blatant disregard of their official duties and in service of a partisan agenda.” It singles out Palmer, the chair of the canvassing board, for saying during Tuesday’s meeting that she would certify all of the county’s votes except those in Detroit, “thus displaying a conspicuous and unacceptable racial bias against the most predominantly Black community in our state, and the potential disenfranchisement of the voters of Michigan’s largest city.”

Bell told Bridge she had initially planned to introduce the resolutions on Thursday but will do so at the board’s next meeting in early December to finalize some details.

Wayne County provided Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with his margin for victory in Michigan, giving him nearly 333,000 more votes than President Donald Trump in a state the Democrat won by about 150,000 votes.

Palmer and Hartmann had initially voted Tuesday against certifying the county’s results, resulting in a 2-2 deadlock, because they said too many precinct voting totals were out of balance, meaning the number of voters who signed in to poll books didn’t match the number of ballots. 

In most cases, the numbers were off by four votes or less and the result of human error, jammed machines or voters signing into polling places and leaving because of long lines. 

That led to two hours of blistering attacks from residents, after which Palmer and Hartmann changed their votes and agreed to certify the election as long as the state later audits the results.

Both have not made any public comments since the vote, but Palmer has obtained an attorney, Michael Schwartz of Southfield, and released a statement late Wednesday claiming she never tried to disenfranchise anyone.

“It was heartbreaking, in part because my intentions were to protect the Detroit vote.  Not to be racist in any way, I was concerned about 70 percent of precincts not balancing in Wayne County,” Palmer wrote in the statement obtained by Bridge Michigan.

“It was also heartbreaking because I sat for two hours listening to people attack me. Certifying the votes has to do with making sure the precincts were balanced or explained.  It had nothing to do with black or white.”

Palmer wasn’t available for comment.

Her adviser, John L. Barlow, told Bridge Michigan that she had received numerous death threats since her initial decision and would not talk beyond the statement until a planned Friday morning press conference in Southfield.


The statement from Palmer claims her ‘no’ vote against certification was “not taking votes away from anybody.” Rather, she said she did so to allow the state Board of Canvassers 10 days to investigate discrepancies and eventually certify the election.

Without offering any details, Palmer claimed she tried to seek clarification from Detroit and state officials about the discrepancies before the meeting.

“If we had the discussion earlier, it could have been avoided but they, the Democrats, were too busy trying to belittle me. They totally brought racists party politics,” Palmer wrote in her statement.  

“During the meeting (Tuesday night) the Democrats went off the hinges trying to suggest we wanted to suppress the black vote, and that was not the case,” her statement continued. “Our concern was in Detroit, Livonia, and other communities that had unexplained imbalances.”

In fact, Palmer’s resolution to certify part of the county initially included Livonia, a largely white suburb that also had many imbalanced precincts.

Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat on the board from Detroit, told Bridge that Palmer voiced no concerns about any irregularities before Tuesday’s meeting. 

His suggestion that the board instead ask the state to conduct for an audit prompted Palmer and Hartmann to change their votes.

“No one belittled her,” Kinloch said. “There was nothing out of order in our remarks. It seems like once again, she is being pressured to play into the hands of the Republican Party in Michigan. It shows she’s not ready for prime time and she should give serious thought as to whether she wants to continue serving on the board.”

After the subsequent vote to certify the vote, Hartmann and Palmer were criticized by Republicans, who had initially hailed them as heroes for refusing to certify the election. Even Trump tweeted congratulations in the two hours between the initial vote and the reconsideration, writing “having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!”

Had Wayne County failed to certify the election it may have set off a course of events, however unlikely, that could have allowed Republicans in the state Legislature to award Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Trump, even though unofficial results showBiden won the state by 146,000 votes.

In an email to supporters, Michigan conservative activist Shane Trejo on Thursday claimed the canvassers “caved to a left-wing terror campaign.”

“There was not mob rule, but there was a lot of pressure to certify,” Palmer wrote in her nine-paragraph statement.

“It was not easy to sit there and listen to all of the threats on the zoom call and on social media.” 

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.


Thu, 11/19/2020 - 3:30am

No, you tried to protect Detroit from exercising democracy. You tried to stifle their voices and their vote.

Detroit voted for Joe Biden, just like they voted for Hillary Clinton. Detroit votes blue. There would be no earthly reason for a democrat to try to hijack the vote in a city that votes blue. You're not trying to protect voters. You're trying to stifle their will and democracy itself.

Wayne County voted for 29.44% for Trump and 66.78% for Hillary Clinton. The final vote tally was 228,993 for Trump and 519,444 for Clinton. Wayne County votes blue, you know it, and no one mentioned those results or asked for a recount in 2016. Why were the voters more honest then? They weren't more honest. They just voted how they vote, just like they did in 2020. There's nothing unusual or "irregular" about Detroit voting for a democrat. They did it in 2016 and they did it this year.

And to suggest that a democrat would try to commit voter fraud in a BLUE county would be as ridiculous as suggesting a republican would try to commit fraud in a county in Texas. Why bother? THEY VOTE RED. And Detroit votes blue.

So this isn't about voter fraud. This is about a United States President attempting to become the first dictator of the country and making a mockery of not just democracy but our judicial systems so that the coup is "legal."

Detroit voted for Joe Biden just like they always vote blue. Protect their vote and have some GD self-respect and love for your country and your system. If Donald Trump had been the first President of the United States, we would have looked like Iraq by now. This is all insane. This is why we voted him out.

This isn't a President. He's a tyrant. Don't be a party to this.

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 6:46am

Hyper-partisan actions disenfranchising voters are going to rightfully be met with anger.
Hartman and Palmer tried to figuratively put their knee on the neck of voters in order to keep them safe from Democracy.
Throwing out or not counting ballots is not “protecting the vote“, and should not be allowed to be propagandized as such.

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 6:48am

Racist Democrats now want to "fire" white officials who don't comply with their agenda. Who stand for the rule of law and ensuring free and fair elections and want to investigate their cheating.

If they're so sure there was no cheating then I wonder why they're obstructing efforts to prove them right and trying to punish those who want to ensure a fair and honest election.

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 7:03am

Race has nothing to do with this issue. Its all about accuracy of the vote. Any race discussion is just an admission that the vote is not accurate so just fall back and play the race card.

Janet DeBoe
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 7:59am

These discrepancies in vote count are present in every election. Most likely, due to human error or machine malfunction , well within the margin of error. In this case , considering the vote difference of 100, 000 + , legitimate is how this election has been conducted. The desperate nature of sitting presidents claims of fraud indicate a fearful unprepared individual with appeal to a confused constituency without direction. The courts have given no quarter to this sitting president due to lack of credibility of the arguments. He is a cult personality. Misleader leading the fired up ,but confused could be a reasonable analogy.

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:24am

First of all, no one should ever be threatened or harmed in any way for performing public service. This includes Ms. Palmer and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and their families.

While Ms. Palmer asserts that her decision was not racist, it is troubling to see the postings on the other Republican canvassar's Face Book page. See link below.

Equally troubling is his posting of Nov. 7 which stated, "I’m reading the news on how great things are now that Biden and Harris are in as declared by MSM. What will happen if it doesn’t happen once the official results are tallied? I wouldn’t sell the farm yet.”

This statement appears to imply that he had no intention of certifying the results at least a full 10 days prior to yesterday's meeting to certify. Is that legal?

I am genuinely interested in what qualifies someone to sit on a Board of Canvassers. How, exactly, are these members vetted? Or are they vetted at all? If a reporter from out of state could find these FB posts shortly after the initial announcement of Nov. 17, why couldn't whomever is responsible for putting people on a board see these posts? Or are posts like these not enough to disqualify someone to serve as a canvassar?

Source: https://twitter.com/Amy_Siskind/status/1328867964125388803

Paul Jordan
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:38am

The heart of this problem is not the Republican members of the election board, but the partisan composition of boards everywhere in the state.
Elections should not 'belong' to the two major parties, but to the People ourselves. Michiganders took an important step to tear redistricting decisions away from the Democrats and Republicans. We need to complete the job by denying membership on election boards to partisans, and making primary elections all non-partisan.
The current partisan election system puts too much power in too few (and too partisan) hands.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 5:07pm

I completely agree with you. Why does putting an equal number of members from the two major parties make things balanced or fair? It's so disappointing that our selection process now depends on the two major parties starting from debates and ending in vote certification.

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:46am

I thought that bridgemi.com is non partisan. Let’s give the politics back to mainstream media.

Ethics lesson
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:13am

"Palmer told the Free Press Tuesday Trump telephoned her Tuesday night, after the board meeting, though she did not say what the [sic} discussed. The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, reported Thursday that Trump also reached out to Hartmann."

Voter intimidation from one of the candidates?

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:28am

How did the balancing numbers look compared to other voting years? If they were off by less than 4 here or there, due to minor clerical errors, is that the case every election? Would they have certified it any other year?

If there's actual evidence of something off then it should be looked into, but is there or isn't there? I feel like those are the questions journalists should be asking.

Robert Honeyman
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 5:38pm

"I sought to 'protect' Detroit vote, ‘not be racist’"
Failed on both issues.

Marni H.
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 7:20pm

"Nine paragraph statement??" She's a piece of work. Can she explain why she agreed later in that meeting to certify all the cities in Wayne County, except Detroit, whose alleged issues were not the worst of the lot? They should both resign now.

Kathleen King
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:11pm

Well, NOW she, Ms Palmer, has had her phone call from the man in the White House and her fifteen minutes of fame, certainly more than she could have ever had other than through this grandstanding. How does any of this safeguard or preserve the votes in Detriot? It does not, it could not. All it does is call the entire Michigan system into disrepute -- oh, and get her invited to the White House. Nothing like selflessness, is there?

Sharon Uzim
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 11:17pm

Editors of this article are biased. Palmer agreed to certify one city which had more discrepancies than another. This fact is covered up by rambling. Plus if Hartmann or any civil servant can not serve, they should be suspended. Just like any other job.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 7:16pm

I am flabbergasted by how stupid Palmer thinks people are. Her "reasons" are BS and it is clear to any reasonable person. Her "fake fears" ring hollow. The only thing that is transparent is that she is a GOP pawn doing their bidding. The GOP's attempt to undermine the real election outcome is not just UnAmerican it is Anti American and dangerous. They need to be held accountable.

Johnny T
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 6:45am

nobody cares what Shane Trejo has to say

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 2:21pm

Are Palmer and Huntmann at risk of prosecution for Deprivation of Rights Under Cover of Law? Disenfranchising an entire black majority city seems to be a deprivation of civil rights.
Quoting from the DOJ site:
Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
For the purpose of Section 242, acts under "color of law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official's lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties.

I'm completely serious. Election officials who are not vetted, have no investigatory powers and are acting capriciously should be vulnerable under this law.