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GOP leaders seek new avenue to undermine elections: local canvassing boards

By: - October 25, 2021 1:08 pm

A voter at Roosevelt High School puts her ballot into the machine on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. | Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch

As Michigan Republican Party members continue to perpetuate false claims on the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden, party leaders have shifted their focus on those in charge of certifying vote counts in future elections.

Republicans are now replacing members on county canvassing boards who certified the 2020 election results with those who falsely claim former President Donald Trump won or have spread election misinformation.

Biden beat Trump in the state by over 154,000 votes. Additionally, over 250 state and local election audits found no evidence of fraud or concern regarding the security of Michigan’s election. 

The four-person canvassing boards are bipartisan panels in charge of certifying election results. Every two years, one Republican and one Democrat on each board are replaced or are reinstated. The process of finding replacements includes local party leaders nominating three people, and county commissioners subsequently nominating one person from the list. This year, the new four-year terms of the incoming Republican and Democrat on each board will start on Nov. 1.

As first reported by the Detroit News, Republicans have nominated new people to fill the posts in eight of Michigan’s 11 biggest counties. In over four of those counties, the incumbent GOP canvasser was not renominated although they wanted to be. 

Monica Palmer, former member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, at the Board of State Canvassers, Nov. 23, 2020 | Screenshot

Wayne County was ground zero for GOP election misinformation after the 2020 election. Monica Palmer was one of two Republicans on the Wayne County canvassing board who initially voted to not certify the county’s votes in November, expressing concern over Detroit voter totals and ballot totals were slightly off. Biden won the county by 68% to Trump’s 31%. 

However, after receiving pushback, Palmer and her Republican colleague on the board, William Hartmann, switched their votes. Former President Donald Trump reportedly called Palmer afterward. Palmer and Hartmann then signed affidavits to rescind their certification votes. But the state said there was no legal avenue to do so. 

Palmer told the Detroit News she believes she was not renominated due to her vote to certify the 2020 election results. In her place, the GOP has nominated three candidates, one of whom is Hima Kolanagireddy, who Rudy Giuliani introduced as a witness in a December Michigan House hearing while urging state lawmakers to counter the 2020 election results. 

In Macomb County, GOP leaders solely nominated Nancy Tiseo from Clinton Township to fill an open canvasser role, defying state law which requires for three people to be nominated. Tiseo previously tweeted that “military tribunals” should investigate assertions of election fraud. 

The GOP has also nominated in Antrim County in northern Michigan Victoria Bishop, who is married to “Trucker” Randy Bishop, a right-wing radio commentator who moderated an event including Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow who has spread election conspiracies.

Aaron Van Langevelde — the Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers who joined Democrats on the board in voting to certify the 2020 presidential election results — also has been replaced, but not with a Trump loyalist. Another Republican member of the state board, Normal Shinkle, abstained from certifying Biden’s win. 

Aaron Van Langevelde, former GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers, Nov. 23, 2020 | Screenshot

In January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Tony Daunt, the executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, to replace Van Langevelde. 

The Michigan GOP submitted three nominees to Whitmer, including Daunt. Another nominee was Linda Lee Tarver, a former Michigan Department of State employee who pushed election conspiracy theories and was involved in a lawsuit urging state lawmakers to interfere in the 2020 election results. Also nominated was Tori Sachs, who was the executive director of the conservative group Michigan Rising Action. She has replaced Daunt in heading the Michigan Freedom Fund.

At a July canvassers meeting, Daunt criticized Trump in praising a GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee report showing there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“I just want to thank you and the committee for having the courage to do this report, to put the information out there without leaning on the scales, having the courage to stand up against the malignancy that is [former President] Donald Trump and the people who have lacked the courage to stand up to him for the last six months,” Daunt said.

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.