Whitmer says Trump election threats are ‘sinister’

By: - September 24, 2020 3:15 pm

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at UW Milwaukee’s Panther Arena. Trump, who is the third president to face impeached, now faces an impending trial in the Senate. | Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that efforts by President Donald Trump, his campaign and his administration to potentially undermine the integrity of the election are “sinister” and “incredibly destructive.”

“I think the sad truth is that in this environment, in this moment, there are political agendas at play to undermine some of the democratic traditions that we as a nation have always had available to us,” Whitmer said. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives her DNC address, Aug. 17, 2020 | Julia Picket photo

The Democrat pointed to changes at the U.S. Postal Service, efforts to call into doubt the results of the election, refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, possibly working with state legislative leaders to switch out electors even if they don’t win the vote and efforts to name a new Supreme Court justice as Americans vote on who should be president.

“These are all designed to undermine our election. It’s never happened in our country like this. It is sinister, it is selfish and it is incredibly destructive,” Whitmer said during an online forum for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Democratic Governors Association and the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. “These are not the actions of an administration that feels as though they’re going to win an election.”

In response to a reporter’s question at a Wednesday press conference, Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the Nov. 3 general election, in which he’s facing Democrat Joe Biden.

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Westland Mayor Bill Wild said local governments are struggling to find enough poll workers to run precincts successfully on Election Day.

“We’re all struggling for poll workers. One of the things I think we found is that communities are kind of stealing each other’s poll workers,” Wild said. “We’ve had to up the pay that we’re offering. Our poll workers now are averaging about $20 an hour. We had to do that to be competitive so our poll workers didn’t go to surrounding communities. We’ve really had to stretch our budget for election workers.”


Wild said they need at least 30 more poll workers to meet the state mandated minimum, but noted that they “would take 100.”

“When we say that we need 100, one of the things that we learned in the primary was that we had poll workers that were lined up to work, we trained them, they committed to it, and then on Election Day because of concerns with Covid and safety, they just didn’t show up,” Wild said. “So what we’re having to do is we have to over hire just so we have the ability to move people around.”

Whitmer said her 16-year-old daughter has signed up to be a poll worker.

“My daughter is 16, and even though she is not old enough to vote, she can participate in the process by working at the polls. So she’s talked one of her friends into joining her, and this will be a good experience for them,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer said having enough poll workers is an important part of getting a result “that counts every vote and that we can all have confidence in, and that is as quick as possible.”

“And by quick, I’m thinking days – hopefully day, but we recognize that we just had a legal case, the determination came down that says that ballots that are received after Election Day but postmarked prior to Election Day will be counted,” Whitmer added. “We’re hopeful that we don’t have a lot of them, we’d like to get people to mail those in quickly – they’re available now – but that is something we’re all mindful of.”


Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman said part of that will be making sure voters know all the resources available to them.

“We just want to make sure that people are aware of those accommodations that are available for them. And so we’re going to make a massive education effort out there. We’ve learned some of the tricks of doing that with the Census,” Waterman said. “So we’re going to take some of those ways we have found to get the messaging out to people and turn that into the election.”

Whitmer noted that campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic is different, and warned that college campuses being closed could have an impact on some congressional races.

“We have some campuses where we didn’t have kids come back, we’ve got others where they did,” Whitmer said. “This is a challenge, certainly, for some of our congressional candidates who are used to having 50,000 votes on a campus that you can go in and talk to and mobilize.”

While Whitmer didn’t name specific candidates that could be impacted, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) faces one of the toughest re-election campaigns in Michigan. Her district includes the Michigan State University campus, which is currently closed – meaning the students that helped deliver her a win in 2018 may not be in town to help with a repeat victory.

Michigan residents are allowed to cast their ballots at their local or county clerk’s office beginning Thursday. They can also request an absentee ballot be mailed to them at Michigan.gov/vote.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a regular contributor to the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.