File image: Michigan handed victory to Joe Biden by a margin of over 148,000 votes
(Copyright 2020 Associated Press)
In a development that has been welcomed by Trump supporters and the president himself, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann complained that they felt pressured into formally certifying Wayne County’s vote count, which had leaned heavily in Joe Biden’s favour.
The Republicans had made headlines when they initially refused to certify the count, before finally reversing that decision on Wednesday. Yet late in the day they flip-flopped again, submitting written affidavits that they wanted to change their votes and that their families had been “threatened” over the hold-up.
Ms Palmer in her affidavit wrote: “After the vote the public comment period began, and dozens of people made personal remarks against me and Mr Hartmann.
“The comments made accusations of racism and threatened me and the members of my family,” she added.
The county consists of a majority of 80 per cent African-American voters.
It was on Tuesday that Ms Palmer and Mr Hartmann, two out of the four-member Board of Canvassers for the county, refused to carry out what most saw as a formality and sign off their district’s ballot count giving Mr Biden a 148,000 vote lead over President Donald Trump.
In his affidavit, Mr Hartmann reiterated his concerns that the numbers in poll books, qualified voter files, and final tallies were matching, and separately demanded answers on “the use of private monies directing local officials regarding the management of the elections”.
Mr Trump had earlier celebrated the Republicans’ hesitation in approving the Wayne County ballot count, saying: “Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!”
Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2020
Minutes later, however, the two Republican members of the board did agree to certify the count, reportedly after a strong backlash from Democrats and as part of a compromise with the secretary of state, Democrat Jocelyn Benson, who agreed to conduct an audit of the county’s votes to clear up any doubts.
The Republicans finally asked to rescind their votes and wait until after the audit to certify. “I felt misled,” Ms Palmer told the Washington Post earlier on Wednesday, before signing the affidavit. “I stand firm in not certifying Wayne County without the audit.”
Mr Trump is yet to respond to the latest developments.