Scuffle occurs as dueling protesters gather for Michigan's election certification vote

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

LansingProtesters gathered in downtown Lansing Monday before the Michigan's Board of State Canvassers voted to certify the Nov. 3 election results. 

The dueling protests outside the state Capitol and the Richard H. Austin building led to at least one street scuffle among protesters that police had to break up. 

The two sets of protesters had contrary demands: Some sought a delay to certification to allow time to investigate purported "irregularities" in Detroit's ballot counting process while others demanded the certification of results for all of Michigan's 83 counties.

"The election results for this state need to be scrutinized and audited," said Dan Boyer of Brownstown Township as he gathered with a group of "Stop the Steal" protesters near the Austin building. 

Wayne County became "ground zero" for allegations of fraud after the election and, as a county resident, Boyer argued the allegations carry some weight. Detroit elections officials refuted claims of ballot irregularities there and a Wayne County judge earlier this week said the claims lacked credibility.

Christine Ingles of Novi stands in front of the Capitol building, in Lansing, Nov. 23, 2020.

Election officials said mismatching tallies among 70% of the absentee ballot counting boards amounted to a few hundred votes out of more than 780,000 cast.

"You can’t blow it off," Boyer said. "What is was needs to be determined, and that’s why I’m here.”

For Robbie Daily of Port Huron, the gap between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden among absentee voters was subject for suspicion. Biden leads 51%-48% or by 154,000 votes.

"When it came to the absentee, he was like double, triple what he got in person," Daily said. "Something’s wrong here. ... I wouldn't certify that election, no way."

A group of pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the Austin Building, in Lansing, Nov. 23, 2020.

Pollsters anticipated absentee voters would lean left or vote for Biden based on pre-Election Day polling and warnings from Trump against mail-in voting. 

"But not that much, not that much more," Daily said of Biden's absentee lead. 

A couple blocks away, Jim Ward of DeWitt gathered with a small group of protesters urging the Board of State Canvassers to certify. Canvassers should "do their job," he said. 

"I just can’t understand the amount of insanity that is going on with this stuff," Ward said. "Our democracy is in danger and we’ve got to do something.”

Christine Ingles of Novi expressed concern that the ongoing upheaval over the Nov. 3 election would undermine the state's trust in the election system. 

"Canvassers should do their job and certify an election that was fairly fought and not continue with the fantasies coming out of Washington," Ingles said. 

Around 1 p.m., police broke up an altercation between two men near Allegan and Walnut streets. Trump supporters gathered there had been criticizing a CNN crew nearby when a man carrying a sign urging canvassers to certify the vote pushed a Trump supporter, according to a Detroit News photographer on the scene and a reporter who reviewed the photographer’s video.

Police took statements from all parties involved and will send a report to Ingham County prosecutors for possible assault charges, said Lt. Brian Oleksyk, public information officer for the Michigan State Police First District. The suspect, he said, was a 74-year-old Fowlerville man and the alleged victim a 45-year-old Lansing man.

Through the first hours of the Board of State Canvassers' meeting, dozens of vehicles drove in a caravan around the Capitol while honking their horns and sporting signs that urged certification of the Nov. 3 election. Signs read "Voters decided," "Do your job," "Certify" and "Trump must concede."

Michigan State Police formed a line in front of Biden and Trump protesters near the street, trying to keep them on the sidewalk and prevent any scuffles among protesters. 

Trump supporters on megaphones shouted "Trump is still your daddy" and "Dead voters matter."

Brian Cash of New Hudson was among those urging denial of certification and yelling at the passing caravan. Cash drew attention in April, when he was among dozens of people protesting Whitmer's stay-home order and demanding access to the House floor. 

In a viral photograph from that day, Cash was pictured yelling into the face of a Michigan State Police trooper blocking access to the House floor. The Oakland County resident drew parallels between the stay-home order and a Biden presidency, opining that both would be "dictatorships."

"We just want transparency," Cash said. "If you didn't cheat then let us do what we've got to do. Why are you fighting so hard against taking a look at what happened?"

The state certification process is under extreme scrutiny this year as the national and state Republican parties  asked the bipartisan board to delay by as much as two weeks to allow for an audit of results. Such a delay would have taken Michigan to the cusp of Dec. 8, the "safe harbor" deadline in federal law that requires states to choose electors to ensure their acceptance by Congress.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other election officials have said an audit cannot be completed ahead of certification of Michigan's Nov. 3 results.

Under Michigan law, the board must begin the state certification process within 20 days after the election (which this year is Monday, Nov. 23) and wrap it up within 40 days of the election (Dec. 13). 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com