Closed-door meeting for electors sparks controversy, safety concerns

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

A Republican state lawmaker is frustrated that Monday's Electoral College meeting in Lansing to formalize President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of Michigan will take place behind locked doors at the state Capitol.

State Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, said he is in opposition to "and am outraged" by a decision from the Michigan State Capitol Commission and Michigan Democratic Party to hold the convening of the state's 16 presidential electors inside the Capitol while the building is closed to the public.

State Senator Michael D. MacDonald

Democrats and electors said the meeting is being done without people in the gallery of the state Senate chamber and the building closed due to security reasons given the political climate and COVID-19 restrictions. Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes amid unproven allegations by President Donald Trump that there was widespread voter fraud in the state.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission had given Democrats the option to have the building open during the event, said John Truscott, vice chairman of the panel. In recent weeks, the Capitol has only been open when official business is taking place inside.

On Monday, Electoral College delegations meet separately in each state to cast their votes for president and vice president and sign certificates that are sent to Congress, which later declares the results. 

The Michigan Democratic Party issued a statement saying the meeting would be livestreamed to keep everyone safe. 

"The Electoral College will be broadcast live on three different platforms — Michigan Senate TV (stream 1), WLNS, and on Governor Whitmer's Facebook page," the statement said. "We invite everyone to join us from the safety of their homes beginning at 2pm on Monday, December 14 to watch this historic event."

MacDonald said he isn't swayed by that argument.

"I believe government should be transparent and open to the public to allow citizens to actively watch the political process," he said in a statement. "The Michigan Senate has consistently kept our chamber open to the public with safe and sensible guidelines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Although my colleagues and I do not have a say in the process for this meeting of the Electoral College, I strongly believe it should be open to the people in a safe and responsible manner."

But Blake Mazurek, a Grand Rapids middle school history teacher and one of the 16 electors for Biden and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, tweeted out "NO" to McDonald's comments.

Mazurek said he and the other Biden electors are receiving security for Monday's vote given the amount of threats against electors. He said the major issue for him is that people can carry weapons into the Capitol building and cause serious trouble.

His concern "stems out of safety, if you will," Mazurek said.

"In my essence, I'm a firm believer in protest," Mazurek said. "I am however, concerned about the presence of firearms inside the capitol. I think that is absolutely over the top as far as what should be allowed."

Blake Mazurek

Mazurek said he can't even bring his wife to the vote because of the pandemic protocols.

"It's troubling that this is the state of affairs that we're in," he said. "For people to need to have police escort to do their duty, I find that troubling."

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Lansing reporter Craig Mauger contributed.