Black leaders, civil rights advocates outraged over initial Wayne County Canvassers vote
Black and civil rights leaders were outraged by an initial 2-2 vote Tuesday by the Wayne County Board of Canvassers that had denied certification of election results. The vote was later reversed.
The 4-member board, two Republican and two Democrats, were split along party and racial lines when they first voted on whether to certify the election results in Wayne County, where more than 878,000 people cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election.
Later during the meeting — after a couple of hours of angry complaints from Democrats and civil rights leaders — the board voted again, resulting in the two Republicans, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, changing their votes favoring certification.
The board members ultimately asked the state to audit precincts with ballot discrepancies. Hartmann and Palmer could not be immediately reached for comment.
The initial 2-2 vote led to an outpouring of frustration and anger among speakers who took part in the online meeting, which was broadcast via Zoom. Several speakers blasted the two Republicans for taking an action that they say was racist, compounding anger over what happened two weeks prior when some Republicans aggressively tried to challenge, and halt, the ballot tabulation process inside TCF Center in downtown Detroit.
"I am appalled at the actions of these so-called Republicans," said William Davis, a Detroit Police commissioner and president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association who's with the National Action Network, a group led by Rev. Al Sharpton.
"Y 'all Confederates, you're not Republicans. … Both of you should be aware of the fact that we're no longer going to sit around and let White people take advantage of Black people," Davis said.
During the meeting, Palmer and others noted that some precincts in Wayne County were out of balance, meaning the number of ballots processed were different from the number who signed in.
What rankled speakers was not just the vote, but some of the comments made during the meeting. At one point, Palmer said that she was open to certifying results outside of the city of Detroit, a 79% Black city. There were reportedly some ballot discrepancies in Detroit and other cities in Wayne County, such as Livonia, board members said.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson later said in a statement that it is common to have differences involving a small number of votes, but added that it doesn't indicate improper counting or casting of ballots.
During the meeting, Palmer had expressed concern about some precincts being out of balance. William Hartmann, the other Republican board member, said there have been problems with Detroit tabulation and election administration in the past that needed to be fixed.
The two Democrats on the board, Jonathan Kinloch and Allen Wilson, were critical of the Republicans during the meeting. Kinloch called the initial blocking as "reckless and irresponsible."
Rev. Wendell Anthony, pastor at Fellowship Chapel in Detroit who leads the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, ripped into the Republicans for their actions in a fiery speech online.
"You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said that the only ones that are at fault, at issue, are in the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African-American," Anthony said. "Shame on you. Shame on you for leading to this level of corruption. You have disavowed your right to even sit in the seats that you occupy. You are a disgrace as it relates to the ability to have a free and fair impartial election in this country."
"You have dishonored the legacy of veterans, the legacy of seniors, the legacy of all those who have been left out and miscounted for generations," Anthony added.
The actions at Detroit's TCF Center, where absentee ballots were being counted, two weeks ago and the initial denial of certification brings back memories of when Blacks and women were not allowed to vote in the U.S., Anthony said.
The speakers at Tuesday's meeting were a diverse mix people — White, Black, Arab American, Latino, and Indian American. Some in the Arab American and Muslim communities were alarmed that Hartmann appeared to have a history of making inflammatory remarks about Muslims, including complaining about Muslims moving into Melvindale and once referring to President Barack Obama as a "Muslim President."
Abed Ayoub, a Dearborn native who's the national legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, posted some of Hartmann's remarks on Facebook, saying they were "racist and Islamophobic."
On Wednesday, Rev. Anthony of the NAACP blasted Hartmann for disparaging Obama as a thief and as a Muslim president, "even though he's a devout Christian."
"Not that there's anything wrong with being a Muslim," Anthony added.
At one point in the meeting, Hartmann seemed to suggest he would not call on potential speakers waiting online who had names he could not pronounce.
You "picked other people because you could pronounce their name," said Pastor Edward Pruett of Westland during the meeting. "That is a shame. Shame on you. Your racist ignorance was showing. You should not have said that."
"Many people have called it racism," Pruett said. "I call it ignorance. … That is a problem."
One of the speakers who slammed the two Republicans was State Sen.-elect Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), who will be the first Yemeni-American to serve in the Michigan legislature.
Even after the two Republicans later voted to certify the results, Aiyash wrote on Twitter: "Monica Palmer and William Hartmann are still racists."
Adonis Flores, an immigrant rights activist in the Latino community with Michigan United, said of the initial vote: "This is what racism looks like."
The speakers reflected the diversity of Wayne County. In addition to Detroit, which is a 90% minority city, there are some cities where Blacks are a majority or plurality, such as Inkster and Harper Woods. And cities like Dearborn and Hamtramck have sizable Arab American and Bangladeshi American communities.
Ashley Daniels told the Republicans that "as a Black woman," she was being silenced by their vote against certification and also during the online meeting.
"We are going to come for Y'all heads," she said. "You guys are not right. You are unethical."
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Attorney General Dana Nessel also released statements blasting the initial blocking of certifying results.
Contact Niraj Warikoo:firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792. Twitter @nwarikoo