It’s official in Michigan: Electoral College affirms Biden and Harris

By: - December 14, 2020 4:30 pm

The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have an “extremely limited” footprint for the swearing-in ceremony, and a parade that will be “reimagined,” according to Biden’s inaugural team. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Michigan’s Electoral College on Monday unanimously voted for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during its meeting at the state Capitol. 

It was a relatively uneventful event that came after credible threats closed the Capitol for the day to the public and a Republican state House member made comments about a planned protest that Attorney General Dana Nessel said “can only be described as open sedition.”

Police escorted the electors to the Capitol Building. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., are holding Electoral College meetings on Monday and there were security concerns in some other states. The Arizona secretary of state did not disclose the location of its Electoral College vote ahead of time.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Electoral College vote, Dec. 14, 2020 | Screenshot

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who presided over the process in 2012 when she served as Senate minority leader, called the meeting “historic.” The Democrat, who was on the VP short list, reiterated her support for Biden. 

“I believe that Joe Biden is the right leader at the right moment,” Whitmer said during a pool press availability just prior to the meeting about Biden and the entire field of presidential hopefuls at more than two dozen one point. “Sometimes I really step back and look at how big that primary stage was and so many talented people were on it, and yet throughout the process we picked the leader we need in this moment. That’s why I do trust the American system. It’s not perfect but it’s the best in the world.”

Biden is scheduled to address the country Monday night.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist was elected chair of the 90-minute proceeding. State Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) was appointed secretary. Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party chair, was appointed sergeant-at-arms. Bridget Mary McCormack, Michigan Supreme Court chief justice, swore in the electors. Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) were elected as honorary chairs. 

One elector, Walt Herzig of the 9th District, was unable to attend. Sharon Baseman was elected to serve in place of him.

Biden won Michigan over President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes. Michigan has 16 electors. Biden leads in the electoral vote 306 to 232. Votes will next be counted in Congress on Jan. 6.

Outside of the building, a small group of Trump supporters rallied, with some Republicans staging an attempt to submit to police at the Capitol a fake slate of GOP electors, which is not legal. 

Among them were state Reps. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) and Matt Maddock (R-Milford). Both signed on to the longshot Texas lawsuit that sought to toss election results in Michigan and three other states. Seventeen other Michigan lawmakers supported the case. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected it on Friday. 

Earlier in the day, state Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.), gave an interview on WPHM radio when he talked about the alternate elector plan and was asked if he could guarantee that “nobody’s going to get hurt.”

“No,” Eisen responded. “I don’t know because what we’re doing today is uncharted. It hasn’t been done.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and incoming Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) denounced violence and removed Eisen from his committee assignments through the end of the term, which ends this year.

Eisen then released a statement expressing “regret the confusion over my comments this morning.” He maintained the GOP elector plan was legal, although it is not.

Whitmer, who was the subject of a right-wing extremist kidnapping and murder plot foiled in October, called Eisen’s remarks “discouraging and downright dangerous.” 

“I do believe that anyone who is inciting people to take action to is contributing to a hostile environment that can lead to domestic terrorism and I take it very seriously,” Whitmer said, per a pool report. “You know what, I should take it very seriously because some of that was directed my way early on and throughout the course of this year. 

“It’s unacceptable and I think every person — whether they’re a man or woman, Republican or Democrat, Yooper or downstate — should be able to stand up and say we respect our institutions. Even if we don’t like the result, we have a system that works. It’s the envy of the world, and anyone who is working to undermine it is unpatriotic and undermining democracy.”

Barnes acknowledged how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the election. 

Democrats poised to cast Electoral College votes, but not all back the system

“We would have all loved to have a big party,” Barnes said, per a pool report. “On election night we would have loved to have a big party and here today would have loved to have friends and family and our electors family members here to watch them take part in this historic event. It’s just not possible with COVID.”

She added that the American presidential election process “works.” 

“The system that was built here in this country to make sure these steps all happen works,” Barnes said. “I hope we can put this behind us because there’s real work to be done here. We have to make sure that we’re responding to the needs of the people. I think that our Legislature has been spending a little bit too much time dealing with the nonsense around the non-fraudulent election and not in dealing with the issues of the people of Michigan.”

Blake Mazurek, an elector representing Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, said he felt a great sense of relief upon entering the Senate chambers Monday. 

Mazurek, a history teacher, said he was “troubled” by attempts to overturn the election, but feels optimistic now that electors have cast their votes.

“A Biden presidency, I hope, will restore a sense of decorum, even though we have for decades been sliding into very hyper-partisan sniping and attacks,” Mazurek said, per a pool report. “I hope that he’s able to show the country that his leadership will help begin the mending of fences. I want to have that optimism. I need that optimism.

“We’ve had many dark periods. I can imagine our forefathers and mothers sitting around the tables wondering, can this country hold with whatever terrible things are going on? I believe firmly that if we keep our focus on what unites us … we’re still moving the ball down the field. The work is nowhere near done and we’ve hit a rough patch, but I’m optimistic we can make some, we can see something happen.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.