Michigan state GOP leaders won't interfere with electors, overturn vote

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan Republican leaders again reiterated their pledge not to overturn the popular vote in Michigan and indicated they won't interfere with the state's electors set to convene Monday afternoon in Lansing to vote in the Electoral College for President-elect Joe Biden. 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey issued a statement Monday saying the slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty "free from threats of violence and intimidation," and acknowledging that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won Michigan's election. 

"While there are some who still argue this should not take place, we must recognize that our feelings, our desires, and our disappointments are subordinate to the health of our democracy and the will of the majority," Shirkey said. 

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, left, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey

The statements from Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield came after state Rep. Gary Eisen made cryptic comments Monday morning about Republicans possibly trying a "Hail Mary" to intervene in the afternoon votes of the state's presidential electors. 

Eisen, R-St. Clair Township, also wouldn't promise a radio host that the day would be safe. He later clarified his remarks, saying he intends to support the seating of an alternative slate of electors but intends to do so "peacefully and legally."

Chatfield in his statement said he personally believes the Legislature could pass a resolution changing the manner in which the electors are appointed — but not retroactively.

Chatfield called the move "unprecedented for good reason," and said it won't happen, indicating there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors. 

President Donald Trump has repeatedly made unproven claims that there was "massive" voter fraud in Michigan's election, but his efforts in the courts to overturn the result have failed. 

Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a lawsuit filed by Texas based on claims that had been rejected by lower courts in Michigan, by election experts and officials, and in testimony during state legislative hearings. 

Both Chatfield and Shirkey were among a group of seven lawmakers who met with Trump at the White House in late November as Trump was pressuring GOP state lawmakers in battleground states to intervene in the election results. 

Chatfield and Shirkey said after that meeting that they had "not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan."

Chatfield noted Monday the Legislature decades ago chose to award Michigan's electors to the winner of the popular vote, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that once created, the right to a popular vote for president becomes "fundamental, and the exercise of a fundamental right can’t be infringed retroactively for due process reasons."

"Maybe they were right. Maybe they were wrong. But that was the court’s decision. And it still stands today," said Chatfield, who campaigned for Trump. 

"I can't fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win.

"I fear we'd lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can't stand for that. I won’t.

"I know this isn’t the outcome some want. It isn’t what I want, either. But we have a republic if we can keep it. And I intend to."

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, and Michigan's 16 presidential electors are set to convene at 2 p.m. to vote for Biden and Harris in the Electoral College. 

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, as officials in Michigan, many other states and even U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr have attested.

Shirkey and Chatfield in their statements Monday both said any election fraud should be investigated and prosecuted, and noted state lawmakers are continuing to look into reports of election irregularities. 

"Numerous claims of fraud have been independently investigated, and in each instance, the claim is either found to be incorrect or incapable of being proven," Shirkey said.

"While the volume of information demonstrates a need to address certain vulnerabilities, we have not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”

Shirkey said the information collected should spur election reforms in Michigan, and that might be part of President Donald Trump's legacy. 

"Our country is bigger than one election. Like many people, I am personally very disappointed in the outcome of the presidential election, but we cannot let that disappointment overshadow the wins of conservative candidates across our state and nation, nor can we allow that disappointment to erode the very foundation of our country," Shirkey said.

"There is more resolve in my fellow citizens and more to the enduring spirit of America than the partisan rhetoric that has dominated the last few weeks.”