| Detroit Free Press
Alleged irregularities and purported problems with vote counting in Detroit and elsewhere warrant investigating before anyone can declare President Donald Trump lost the election, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a speech from her home state of Michigan Friday.
While McDaniel called for the media to help Republicans investigate claims and said she had referred some allegations to federal prosecutors in the southern district of Michigan, headquartered in Detroit, she did not commit to pursuing a recount, expressly describe what relief she sought or acknowledge whether any review would change the fact that Democratic nominee Joe Biden has substantially more votes than the president in Michigan.
“It needs to be pursued, not just by Republicans but also by Democrats. Because if we are going to come out of this and say this was a fair and free election, what we are hearing from the city of Detroit is deeply troubling,” McDaniel said.
“So we are going to pursue this. You know, the media, Joe Biden, have all said be patient. We should all be patient. But we should also be patient as we pursue these irregularities.”
The speech from the head of the national Republican Party was ongoing evidence Trump will likely continue to refute the results of an election that appears destined to send Biden to the White House.
Despite no evidence of widespread fraud or misconduct in Michigan or elsewhere, McDaniel and many other supporters of the president say irregularities must be investigated. McDaniel spoke standing next to Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox and before more than 50 supporters and media members packed together at the Oakland County Republican Party headquarters in Bloomfield Hills.
Minutes before she started speaking, her uncle U.S. Sen, Mitt Romney, R-Utah, put out a statement, saying that every candidate has the right to call for an investigation into “alleged voting irregularities where evidence exists” but blasted the president’s rhetoric of a fraudulent election.
“He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,” Romney said.
While McDaniel focused on Michigan — a state Biden has unofficially won by roughly 146,000 votes — she also referenced states where the counts were ongoing as of Friday. That included Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Trump was losing, although the margin in Georgia was very narrow.
McDaniel also said teams of lawyers were “on the ground” in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
McDaniel would not say whether the party planned to file any lawsuits or pursue other formal action. While lawsuits after an election are common, they rarely if ever change the outcome of a race. On Thursday, a judge dismissed a suit filed by the Trump campaign, saying it provided no evidence or legal basis for her to stop a vote count that was already complete.
During her news conference, McDaniel hurled accusations at Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, and at election officials in Detroit. She said Benson was being “dishonest.”
In a statement late Friday evening, Benson’s office issued what essentially amounted to a point-by-point refutation of McDaniel’s allegations.
“Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, effectively and transparently and are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters,” the state said, outlining in great detail why McDaniel’s allegations were wrong.
McDaniel alleged some election workers at the TCF Center, the site in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted, were told by Chris Thomas, a former state election director brought in to help run the election in Detroit, to “backdate” absentee ballots. In Michigan, only those ballots received by 8 p.m. on Election Day are valid.
The allegation is similar to one filed in an affidavit by a Republican lawyer who was a poll challenger at the TCF on Tuesday.
McDaniel provided no evidence any ballots were backdated, or even that election officials collected ballots after the 8 p.m. deadline.
In a statement, Thomas said it is clear McDaniel does not understand how elections are run.
“In the heat of the moment, responsible officials should avoid denigrating the election process without verifying their information,” Thomas said.
Thomas said employees at Detroit satellite voting locations forgot to enter the date a ballot was received into the qualified voter file, the state’s election computer system. The actual ballots were stamped with the date they were received though, Thomas said. He described the issue as a clerical error.
“None of these ballots were received after 8 p.m. on Election Day. Most were received on Monday, November 2nd — the busiest day for the satellite offices,” Thomas said.
“This issue was discussed with several Republican challengers. Two challengers were provided demonstration of the QVF process and they chose not to file a challenge to the individual ballots.”
While Detroit is a historically Democratic stronghold, Trump actually earned about 5,000 more votes in the city this year than in 2016. And Biden received about 1,000 fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
McDaniel also referenced an issue in Antrim County, a small rural county in northern Michigan. The county initially reported Biden had received the majority of the 17,000 votes cast, then realized that was incorrect and changed its reports to show Trump winning the county by about 3,000 votes.
While McDaniel repeatedly said the problem was caused by a software glitch, the Antrim County clerk appeared to attribute the issue to both the county’s election software and human error.
McDaniel’s speech echoed one Trump made Thursday evening from the White House. The president lied repeatedly about election activities in Michigan and across the nation, referencing several conspiracy theories debunked by the Free Press and others.
Election officials in every state, including Michigan, are in the process of formally certifying results. Many of the allegations McDaniel referenced are routinely examined during this routine process; it’s rare for the canvass to result in any substantial changes to the outcome of any race.
John James, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan, has hinted he may avail himself of some legal resources to refute the results in his race. Incumbent Gary Peters defeated James by roughly 84,000 votes, according to results tabulated by the AP.
Any candidate has the capacity to call for a recount, but changes to the process in Michigan after 2016 make it harder and more expensive to initiate. Recounts rarely change the course of an election not determined by a very small number of votes and do not occur until after the canvass is over.
“We’re not gonna get there yet. We’re not going to jump the gun,” McDaniel said.
Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.