Trump influence seen in deadlock of Michigan election board

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2020, file photo, Harjas Singh, 1, reaches out for his father, Umeet Singh, while held by his mother, Preet Kaur, as they attend a rally with their daughter, Nader Kaur, right, celebrating the election results in Detroit. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2020, file photo, Harjas Singh, 1, reaches out for his father, Umeet Singh, while held by his mother, Preet Kaur, as they attend a rally with their daughter, Nader Kaur, right, celebrating the election results in Detroit. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) (Copyright 2020 Associated Press)

LANSING, Mich. – President Donald Trump offered up his first tweet praising two Michigan Republicans for blocking certification of election results only after the pair did an abrupt about-face in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

But everyone watching the meeting of a Detroit-area election board suspected that the president's efforts to cast doubt on the election played an outsized role in the vote, which briefly threatened to delay the official declaration of Biden's victory in the state.

Republicans Monica Palmer and William Hartmann initially voted against certification Tuesday, leaving the Wayne County Board of Canvassers deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines. Palmer complained that certain Detroit precincts were out of balance, meaning that absentee ballot books did not match the number of ballots cast.

The GOP move drew an immediate rebuke from the public and injected partisan politics into the business of an unsung panel that is supposed to confirm the will of the voters. From kitchens, bedrooms and porches, people observing the meeting by video expressed unfiltered outrage during a public comment period and put the Republicans on notice that they would awaken the masses. The criticism went on for hours. Zoom access to the meeting was forced to expand beyond 100 people.

“The unity, all the fighting that we are doing to keep our country unified, and you are part of the problem,” voter Bernita Bradley of Detroit said during her turn.

The Detroit NAACP president, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, called Palmer and Hartmann a “disgrace.” He doubled down on his denunciation Wednesday, citing a “deadly political virus attacking our election process.”

Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold, by a more than 2-1 margin on his way to winning Michigan by 146,000 votes, according to unofficial results. His victory reversed Trump’s 2016 gains in the industrial Midwest and put Biden on the path to achieving the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

The county canvassers later voted again and certified the results, 4-0.