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Michigan Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga recognizes Biden as president-elect

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of west Michigan has recognized Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect for the first time.

Huizenga of Zeeland told constituents during a Wednesday telephone town hall that he believes Biden will be sworn in as president, and that he would endeavor to work with him where they can find common ground, referring to himself as “the loyal opposition.”

“I am going to attempt to work with him where I can. I suspect, much like the six years that I served while he was vice president and President Obama was president, we’re going to struggle to find those areas of agreement," he said.

"But I hope we can. I am going to be the loyal opposition and fight like crazy for west Michigan and for what I believe in."

Huizenga was responding to a question about whether he accepts Biden's win and would be moving forward with the president-elect.

After weeks of research, Huizenga said he’d not seen evidence of systemic voter fraud in Michigan that would make a difference in the outcome of the election, though as a supporter of President Donald Trump, he said he’s unhappy with the loss.

Huizenga’s remarks followed Trump’s defeat Monday in the Electoral College and in the U.S. Supreme Court last week. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 51%-48%, but the president has continued to tweet falsely about "massive" fraud.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland

Huizenga also said he doesn’t intend to object to the election returns when they are announced during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

"I have, again, not seen the the widespread, systematic fraud that it would need to have taken place to overturn the election here in Michigan," Huizenga said in response to a constituent's question. "I just don't see that widespread, systematic fraud that has been claimed."

Huizenga said he came to the conclusion after studying voting patterns across the state, speaking to clerks in his district and to his colleagues.

He raised concerns about the exclusion of some GOP poll challengers at the TCF Center in Detroit, but also acknowledged that "out of balance" precincts in Wayne County, the center of much dispute, amounted to only 400 votes cast.

Huizenga said his greatest area of concern was how absentee ballots were handled. He believes that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson acted unlawfully in mailing absentee ballot applications to Michigan's registered voters. Two state courts have ruled that Benson acted lawfully in doing so.

Counting Huizenga, two of the five House Republicans in Michigan's delegation have publicly acknowledged Biden’s win. The other is Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, who on Nov. 7 became the first House Republican to congratulate the president-elect.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, a conservative from Dryden, has also recognized Biden’s win but quit the Republican Party on Monday over GOP leaders’ failure to stand up to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, he said.

Officials including U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr have attested there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. But Trump and his campaign have spent weeks making unsubstantiated claims about Michigan’s election — claims rejected by the courts, election experts and officials, and in testimony during state legislative hearings. 

Michigan GOP Reps. Tim Walberg, Jack Bergman, John Moolenaar and Huizenga last week signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief with over 100 of their House colleagues backing the now-failed Texas lawsuit. That suit asked the Supreme Court to overturn the results of the election in Michigan and three other swing states that voted for Biden.

The lawmakers’ brief asked the High Court to review anomalies in the election and "determine for the people if indeed the Constitution has been followed and the rule of law maintained.” The justices declined to consider the lawsuit Friday, saying Texas had no standing in the matter.

Huizenga said he signed onto the amicus brief in large part because of Michigan's election process, namely the mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered voters.

"I would argue that just because we're in the middle of a COVID pandemic and crisis does not mean that we suspend the Constitution or the law," Huizenga said. "But the Supreme Court decided against hearing the case." 

Huizenga was joined at his town hall Wednesday by Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons and Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck, both Republicans. 

They discussed checks and balances in place to safeguard election integrity in Michigan and debunked false claims about inflated precinct turnout and about Dominion voting equipment.

One caller from Grandville said she expected her vote for Trump was "flipped" to Biden because her town uses Dominion voting machines. "I believe Trump won by a landslide, and I'd like to know what's been done to fix that?" she said. 

Lyons, a former state lawmaker, explained to the caller that it was not the first time that she had voted on a Dominion voting system because they've been in use in Kent County for years.

"I can assure you that each and every time you cast a ballot, your vote was counted," Lyons said.  

She went through the rigorous, years-long certification process that voting equipment goes through on the federal and state levels prior to use in Michigan, followed by pre-election accuracy tests by local clerks. Everything is then backed up by paper ballots, she added.

"We do use Dominion," Lyons said of Kent County, a traditionally Republican stronghold that Biden carried with nearly 52% of the vote. "I have full faith and confidence in that because of the rigors that they had to meet." 

Roebuck, who used to work for former GOP Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, said he was part of the purchase process in 2017 when officials walked through and did demonstrations of all of the state's voting equipment. 

"I can emphatically say that I trust the Dominion system, as well," he said. "It's important for our voters to hear that."

Roebuck stressed that many of the affidavits filed in lawsuits around Michigan contained inaccuracies, as well as the recent forensic report out of rural Antrim County. He encouraged voters to do independent research and ask questions about the process.

"I don't know where that information has come from. It's false. And you can see all of our records are visible online; we have detailed precinct reports available online," he said.

"Transparency is really the foundation of our process with our voters, and we had no abnormalities in our turnout. So I think it's really important to dig deep."

Huizenga said people "are not going to be satisfied on all sides of this."

"I have put in countless hours personally. I have had staff and interns, both from my campaign as well as the official office, that have been looking into these allegations, doing research, trying to figure it out," he said. "There's a lot to absorb."

mburke@detroitnews.com