2020, Detroit, Elections, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan — November 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Michigan GOP Board of State Canvassers member Norman Shinkle: No hero for democracy


As news of Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers finally certifying Michigan’s 2020 election results sinks in, it’s worth drawing attention to the antics of hyper-partisan Board member Norman Shinkle in the process. While his Republican colleague Aaron Van Langevelde acted honorably, following Michigan’s law that requires the Board of State Canvassers to certify the election and voting YES to certify, Shinkle abstained. But he did more than that. He gave a flowery speech in which he suggested that Michigan’s election system is a “national embarrassment for Michigan” and cannot be trusted. He went further, blaming this false depiction of our fine state on our remarkably talented and professional Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Here are Shinkle’s absurd comments (which you can watch HERE):

The role of the Michigan Board of Canvassers dates back to the 1850s and I take this responsibility seriously. Today I’m faced with the important decision whether or not to certify the results of the November 3rd general election. Of critical importance is the fact that only after certification may candidates allege errors in voting and pursue legal remedies such as recounts.

The law indicates we must meet within 20 days of the election and have 40 days to certify the vote. Any delay from this must be to await the receipt of all correction of returns or “other necessary purposes.”

I need to review the Wayne County Board of Canvasser meeting from last Tuesday to determine the sufficiency of their certification. I determine this is “other necessary purpose”.

Four years a Democratic Party Chair, Mark Brewer, representing Jill Stein, a failed presidential candidate, said quote, “Stein is seeking to ensure all votes are counted and that the states ballot tabulating machines aren’t susceptible to human manipulation.” The quote continues, “The purpose of this manual recount are to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election.” He told the Board of State Canvassers, “Every vote must be counted.”

The Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney-McDaniels chastised the Stein campaign for pursuing the recount and called on the Hillary Clinton campaign, which had lost Michigan to Donald Trump by about 10,000 votes, to renounce the recount effort. “Michigan voters are being disenfranchised and this recount should not happen,” McDaniels said. “Hillary Clinton should call of the recount. She should ask Jill Stein to abide by the results that were certified today.”

The Trump campaign also weighed in as Trump spokesman Jason Miller referred to the recount as “nonsense” noting that Clinton had conceded to Trump and chastising reporters for chasing the shiny object. Quote, “I really think it’s ridiculous that so much oxygen has been given to the recount effort when there’s absolutely no chance for any election results changing. This election has been decided,” Miller told reporters on a call.

I cite this recent history to remind the Michigan citizens and the state and local press that 2020 is not the first time there have been questions about voting, voting machines, election procedures, and the process here in Michigan. What has become too clear to us in Michigan and across the country that Michigan has a problem conducting elections. And for that I apologize to the citizens and to this nation and commit to working to see that the problems are addressed before the 2021 mayoral election in Detroit and the statewide 2022 elections are held. There is no excuse for the confusion and uncertainty that seems to follow every election in our state. It is unacceptable that so many questions have been raised about the 2020 election.

The Secretary of State has been on notice of these issues and her failures to effectively address them have resulted in national embarrassment for Michigan. Just this past August, after our primary election, I was under the assumption that she was going to use her statutory supervisory control to run the November election in Detroit. This did not happen. Her inability or unwillingness to properly organize Michigan elections so that only eligible voters vote, and all votes are properly verified, and that abuse of absentee voting procedures and ballots was prevented, and that votes, when being verified or counted are subject to proper scrutiny by accredited poll workers, these are unexcusable [sic].

There needs to be a thorough and full review of Michigan’s election process and procedures so that this never happens again and we don’t have a nation watching and wondering what happened in Michigan. The Secretary of State must fully cooperate with this review and must be prepared to address the serious shortcomings revealed in the November election. The people of our state deserve better.

Numerous questions have been raised that may be legitimate, but the Board of Canvassers did not have the time, the resources, or the authority potentially, to get to the bottom of most of these issues. It is clear that the Secretary of State acted, perhaps illegally, in a way that exacerbated the situation by forcing certain local clerks to distribute ballot applications to everyone in the Qualified Voter File. That action was contrary to state law and resulted in some voters arriving to vote on Election Day only to be told, “You’ve already voted.”

The unusual contract with the partisan “Rock the Vote” organization may have added ineligible voters to the QVF. All questions and concerns should be addressed so that never again will we have an election and with distrust and suspicion. Let’s look at everything and fix our problems. In 2000, Florida was a national embarrassment when our election procedures and process were found to be inconsistent and inadequate. Officials on both sides decided never again and, on a bipartisan basis, got busy and fixed the problems in Florida. Twenty years later, it’s time for Michigan to act.

Our problems are not new. Four years ago, Democrat Mark Brewer complained loudly and raised questions about voting irregularities and the fact that 50% of these very precincts could not be recounted. Just three months ago we were shocked to learn that the problem had worsened. The number of precincts that were unable to be recounted was close to 72% for the AV count boards. Since we cannot rely upon our elected Secretary of State to provide a review of these conflicts, we must look elsewhere. That is why today I am asking the Michigan legislature to conduct an in-depth review of all election processes and procedures in Michigan. I will offer a motion to make this request from the entire Board of Canvassers since concerns have been raised by members of all the parties.

Since Republicans and Democrats have raised the issues of serious election irregularities, the legislative review should have support from the Board and from both parties in the legislature. Since many reforms and recommendations may ultimately require the Governor’s signature, I would ask that she also lend her support in this effort.

Hopefully 2022 will see elections conducted the way they were in Florida this year where we set records for early voting and absentee ballots, everything was transparent and well-managed. The election results were known early and no dispute over the conduct of the election. It is my greatest hope that, after the next election, this Board will be able to certify the results in an environment where there are no unanswered questions or suspicions that our election was in any way compromised. All citizens need to be assured that Michigan is conducting clean, accurate, and professional elections.

And, to finalize it, uh, I do not plan on voting for certification. I believe Wayne County’s certification process needs to be looked at, there appear to be serious problems with it and that is the end of my statement.

Shinkle has a long history of intense partisanship. In 2012, Shinkle was one of two members of the Board of State Canvassers who voted to keep a referendum off that ballot that intended to put Michigan’s odious and anti-democratic Emergency Manager Law up for vote. He did this based on the petition’s font size — what came to be known as “Fontgate” — even though there was clear evidence that the font was just fine, including a sworn affidavit by the petition printer that the font size was legal. (See my analysis of that HERE, HERE, and HERE.) The referendum did eventually make it to the ballot after the State Supreme Court smacked down the Fontgate argument and Michigan voters proceeded to do away with our Emergency Manager law in the November general election. Of course, just a month later, Republicans in the state legislature passed a new Emergency Manager law and made it “democracy-proof” by adding an appropriation to the legislation.

While Shinkle condemned Michigan’s “election processes and procedures” as a national embarrassment that cast doubt on our elections’ integrity, his speech this week was, in fact, all about casting erroneous doubt on Michigan’s election processes and procedures. With no proof, he suggested that Sec. of State Benson refused to act to fix what he described as “serious problems” in Detroit when, in fact, there were fewer uncountable ballots in the general election in Detroit than there were in the August primary. He also failed to mention that Livonia, with its overwhelming white majority, had far more issues than Detroit which is, as we all know, majority Black. Finally, all of the problems he cited as historical evidence of his unsubstantiated claim were caused by groups that were NOT the Democratic Party.

Norman Shinkle doesn’t want our Secretary of State to conduct the review of our election processes and procedures that he proposes because he wants that done by the heavily-gerrymandered and Republican-controlled state legislature. When he says, “we must look elsewhere” for having this review done, what he REALLY means is, “we must find Republicans who can fix the problem of too many black people voting in Detroit.”

The remarkable thing about the vote counting in Detroit is that there weren’t MORE issues than there were. Imagine being a black poll worker — and they were mostly black Michiganders — trying to count votes with antagonistic white people breathing down your neck, accusing you of being corrupt and of cheating, while throngs of more white people bang on the windows, loudly demanding you stop your vitally important work. That’s an environment that we should all pray we never have to work in.

Norman Shinkle isn’t trying to solve the “problem” of Americans not trusting Michigan’s election system. He is a major part of the problem. It is he and his Republican colleagues that are bringing uncertainty, shame, and embarrassment to our state. Fortunately, thanks to our new independent redistricting commission, things will look a LOT different after 2022 when we can conduct truly fair elections where the voters choose who represents them in redrawn Congressional and legislative districts rather than the politicians themselves getting to choose who gets to vote for them.

In the meantime, our amazing triumvirate of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel are on the forefront of keeping us safe and protecting our democracy. And that is something for us all to be very, very thankful for.

Norm Shinkle is no hero for democracy. Norm Shinkle is the villain.

UPDATE: Ray Wert makes a VERY good point here: