Farmington Hills — Wayne County’s top lawyer defended the Board of Canvassers’ certification of the county’s Nov. 3 election results as legally valid as Republican canvasser Monica Palmer defended her decision to try to rescind her approval Tuesday of the county’s votes.

In a memo circulated Friday to canvassers, Wayne County Corporation Counsel Janet Anderson-Davis said canvassers were not able to rescind their votes because the board had concluded the canvass and “because the board voted not to reconsider the motion and because the motion to rescind must be made at a meeting.”

In addition, the memo said, Kinloch’s signature on the statement of votes in lieu of Palmer’s is sufficient under Robert’s Rules of Order, which “provides that in the absence of the chair, the vice-president or vice chairman serves instead of the chair.”

Palmer, the board chairwoman, defended her actions Friday amid intense scrutiny over her decision to decline certification, then certify and then attempt to rescind her vote on the final certification of roughly 878,000 votes in Michigan’s largest county.

Her comments came three days after the Wayne County Board of Canvassers deadlocked and then certified the county’s Nov. 3 election results during a six-hour public meeting that included allegations of racism directed toward the Republican canvassers. 

A day later, Palmer and fellow Republican canvasser William Hartmann signed affidavits saying they regretted their decisions.

“My intent with my no vote was to make sure that we got the answers so the voters of the Detroit would get recountable precincts,” Palmer said Friday, referring to about 70% of Detroit absentee counting board poll books found to be out of balance. “It has nothing to do with Black or white.

“If the Board of Canvassers doesn’t have the discretion to say yes or no, why do we even have a board of canvassers?” she said.

Wayne County Canvasser Monica Palmer speaks to reporters during a Farmington Hills press conference on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Palmer said her decision to certify the vote was based on the understanding that there would be an independent audit prior to state certification to determine why poll books were out of balance again. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons have said there are legal and election security reasons why audits aren’t done until after the votes are certified.

Democratic Canvasser Jonathan Kinloch said Friday he told Palmer that he and other Democratic officials would request an audit, but there were no guarantees that Benson would grant one. 

“She knows audits aren’t done until after the certification,” Kinloch said. Palmer’s press conference, he said, comes from “a place that was filled with untruths and political posturing.”

Palmer said she left Tuesday meeting prior to physically signing the final statement of votes that were certified. As she was leaving, President Donald Trump called out of a “genuine concern for my safety.”

She summarized the contents of the call with Trump as “Thank you for your service. I’m glad you’re safe. Have a good night.”

Kinloch confirmed that Palmer and Hartmann left without signing the final statement of votes. But it was signed by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett who certified the vote was taken, he said. 

“The key thing is that actual vote,” Kinloch said.

Palmer said she has since received threatening messages that she forwarded to Grosse Pointe Woods police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She said some of the insults involve her daughter.

“Not only has my home and my family been threatened, my employer has been threatened,” Palmer said. “There are businesses that I shared a Tweet months ago for a giveaway for a wedding dress. That bridal shop is being harassed and threatened at this point. Where does it end?”

Wayne County’s canvassers were told Tuesday that approximately 70% of Detroit’s absentee vote counting boards were out of balance without explanation, potentially disqualifying them from a recount. The total plummeted for the city’s in-person precincts, where 22% were out of balance and unexplained.

During Tuesday’s meeting, an elections official said countywide, the precincts were out of balance by a few hundred votes in a county with 878,000 votes in the Nov. 3 election. The county, a Democratic stronghold, backed Biden over Trump 68%-31%.

In her Wednesday night affidavit, Palmer said her vote was a result of bullying during public comment period and an agreed upon audit that both she and Hartmann believed Benson would renege on. 

Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chairwoman Monica Palmer, right, discusses precincts that she said had Nov. 3 vote count issues during a Nov. 17, 2020 meeting.

Benson said Thursday she planned to conduct several audits after the certification of results, including one in Wayne County. But she said by law the audits are required to be done following statewide certification, not before.

But Palmer said Friday the audit they were looking for was one conducted prior to state certification.

“This is not about the presidential election,” she said. “Most often the recounts are going to come from local candidates, city councils, school board, mayors. When you’re in a local community and you walk in and half of the precincts can’t be recounted because there is not an answer to why those numbers don’t match, that candidate and all the voters in that local district are disenfranchised.”

Tuesday’s meeting included more than two hours of public comment in which residents accused Palmer and Hartmann of racism for attempting to decline certification of Detroit, which has an almost 80% African American population.

Commenters also told the canvassers their children would be marked by their decision, speculated on which school Palmer’s child went to and indicated both canvassers would go to hell for their decision. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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