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

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.

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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.

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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.” 

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