Update: Wayne County has since certified the election results.
Wayne County board of canvassers in Michigan abruptly changed course Tuesday and certified the Nov. 3 election results after initially deadlocking along party lines.
After hours of angry responses from county residents, the change was approved by the two Republican and two Democratic canvassers in addition to the demand that the Secretary of State's office conducts a "comprehensive audit" of "unexplained precincts."
The original 2-2 decision came after a number of absentee ballot poll books in the city of Detroit were found to be out-of-balance. This situation did not stop the same board from certifying the results in the August primary or the county's 2016 general election results, The Detroit News reported.
The high-stakes decision, with the eyes of the nation on Michigan's largest county, reportedly took place while the video stream for the virtual board meeting glitched.
"That passed unanimously," Republican board member William Hartmann announced when the footage began to function again. "We just voted on that." Moments later, Hartmann declared the board's adjournment.
Then minutes following, President Donald Trump tweeted based on the past deadlocked: "Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!"
"Well, it’s really quite simple. You just can’t have more votes than people!" responded Trump after Michigan Republican Party chair Laura Cox praised the certification block.
"The people of Michigan deserve to know what happened in Wayne County," Cox stated. "This action will allow more time for us to get to the bottom of these deeply troubling irregularities."
"Flip Michigan back to TRUMP," the president urged. "Detroit, not surprisingly, has tremendous problems!"
According to the board’s canvassing manual, a county board that fails to canvass within 14 days after Election Day must render all documentation to the Secretary of State's office and Board of State Canvassers, which are allotted 10 days to complete the work, canvass, and certify the results. Wayne County would be subjected to pay for the state-level canvassing, board guidance stipulates.
"If the state board follows suit, the Republican state legislator will select the electors. Huge win for @realDonaldTrump," Team Trump senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis tweeted ahead of the night's discovery.
Concerns have been raised about the possibility that the Republican-controlled state legislature could appoint its own slate of electors and overthrow Democratic challenger Joe Biden's victory in the state. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey disputed this hypothetical: "That's not going to happen."
"We are going to follow the law and follow the process," Shirkey told Bridge Magazine. "I do believe there's reason to go slow and deliberate as we evaluate the allegations that have been raised."
Canvassers discussed a number of precincts that were out-of-balance, which meant that the number of signatures at the polling sign-in did not match the number of people who actually voted at the respective location. Out-of-balance precincts can be caused by simple events, Patch reported, such as someone visiting a polling location, signing in, and then leaving later due to the long line.
Board vice chairman Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat, called the decision by the two Republican members "reckless and irresponsible." Chairwoman Monica Palmer, a Republican, defended the decision.
"Based on what I saw and went through in poll books in this canvass, I believe that we do not have complete and accurate information in those poll books," Palmer retorted.
Palmer argued that she did not have full confidence in how votes were tabulated due to a high number of out-of-balance absentee ballot books, also noting that all votes outside the city of Detroit—where the majority of unbalanced books were found—should be certified. Other board members disagreed. "It's my hope that the state will take over and work with the clerks," Palmer commented.
The board meeting was delayed by more than an hour-and-a-half as the four canvassers awaited further paperwork and attempted to accommodate hundreds of onlookers seeking to participate.
The meeting room was capped at about 35 people, including staff and members of the public, and the Zoom call was unable to appease viewers even after capacity was expanded from 100 to more than 300 individuals. Technical issues prior to the start of the recording as well as during also incurred delays for those in virtual attendance.
Michigan election law prohibits a precinct that is out-of-balance to be recounted. However, the Michigan Secretary of State's office said Wayne County precincts that are out-of-balance without explanation can still be recounted as long as the number of ballots in the container matches the statement of votes on the tabulator. Many containers have not yet been opened.