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House GOP: Canvasser a 'valued member,' keeps job into next session

A day after GOP state canvasser Aaron Van Langevelde cast the deciding vote to certify Michigan's Nov. 3 election results in favor of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, state House Republican leadership said the Charlotte lawyer will "absolutely" keep his job next session. 

Van Langevelde, a policy adviser and deputy legal counsel for the Michigan House Republican Policy Office, joined Democratic colleagues Jeannette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak in voting to certify the results. The procedural task was given heightened drama this year because of pressure from some Republicans and President Donald Trump's campaign to delay the certification.

Despite the pressure from state and national GOP parties to delay certification, Republican legislative leaders stood behind Van Langevelde's decision. 

"Aaron has been a very valued member of this team and will continue to be next session," said Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell.

Aaron Van Langevelde, a Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers, voted to certify Michigan's Nov. 3 election during the board's meeting on Nov. 23, 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, thanked the board for performing its duties, while House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said the decision reflected "America at work." 

"As we have been saying consistently for weeks, the Legislature will uphold the law and respect this result as it works to improve the process for next time," Chatfield said. 

The other Republican canvasser, Norm Shinkle, abstained from voting. But Van Langevelde argued Monday that the board was legally obligated to certify.

"We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the returns that were given to us," Van Langevelde said Monday. "We cannot and should not go beyond that. As John Adams once said, 'We are a government of laws, not men."'

Van Langevelde did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

The decision, lauded by Democrats and some Republicans, came after the Michigan Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and GOP U.S. Senate candidate John James asked for a delay to explore alleged ballot irregularities in Wayne County. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said she would perform an audit after certification. 

Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox was not available Tuesday for comment.

Shinkle said Tuesday  his decision to abstain on the certification vote was based on concerns about allegations stemming from the Wayne County voting and canvassing process. He said he didn't have enough information on problems there and unbalanced poll books in Detroit to vote. 

Still, he didn't criticize Van Langevelde's decision. 

"He can very easily defend his actions from a legal posture, and I can defend mine," Shinkle said. "He just had a different opinion.”

Van Langevelde “did the right thing” and what was required under Michigan law, Michigan Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell said.

“It’s not an easy thing to do in the current environment. I personally thank him for upholding the rule of law,” said Mitchell of Dryden, who is retiring at the end of his term. 

Mitchell said he hopes there won’t be any party retaliation against Van Langevelde for his stance, arguing that eventually the Republican Party must see "it’s not about one individual, political philosophy or political career." 

The congressman said he was unhappy that some of the canvassers, including Van Langevelde, have received threats, but “it doesn’t surprise me, and he shouldn’t feel unique.” 

Members of Congress routinely receive threats, but things have gotten more hostile in the last month, said Mitchell, who has been one of the few House Republicans to call on Trump to concede his loss.

The pressure was intense ahead of the certification process, Shinkle said, noting threats had been made against him and his family to the extent that he changed address numbers on his home and mailbox. He characterized the public comment period at the meeting as a "pre-scripted," "Maxine Waters-slash-Antifa way of getting it done.”

Others are writing bad reviews about the Shinkle family's Temperance flower shop, he said. 

"I’ve been doing this a long time and people try to protest me often," said Shinkle, who was appointed to board in 2008. "It’s when they go after family members, that’s more troublesome.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com