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Opinion: All evidence points to a safe, fair election in Michigan

Joe Schwarz and Bart Stupak

We knew holding this election would be challenging. But in true American fashion, it was run safely, securely and transparently, even in the middle of a global pandemic. And we have our hard-working state and local election officials from both parties to thank for that. 

This election saw a historic turnout, with a record number of Michigan residents voting. Far more of our state’s voters than ever before chose to make their voices heard this year through absentee voting. And despite a longer vote-counting process than we are used to, events have unfolded peacefully. 

Michigan election officials took their time to accurately count and verify every vote, as required by law, the authors write.

Going into this election season we knew that the dramatic increase in absentee ballots would likely mean we would not have results on election night. Michigan election officials  — our friends and neighbors — took their time to accurately count and verify every vote, as required by law. This time-consuming but thorough process allowed them to meet the highest standards of security and integrity. The result was safe, free and fair elections. It was worth the wait.

There are, of course, ways to improve our state’s voting process. Michigan is among just a handful of battleground states that do not have an extended period of time to process absentee ballots — verifying voters’ signatures, removing ballots from envelopes and other administrative tasks that occur before absentee ballots are counted. While Florida state law allows election officials there to begin processing absentee ballots 22 days prior to Election Day, Michigan state law — which was amended this year — gives just one extra day for this Herculean undertaking. Experts accurately forewarned that this would unnecessarily delay results this year. The good news is that the Michigan legislature can fix this — and should — before the next election. 

This was a fiercely contested presidential election. Many voters are understandably upset that their chosen candidate did not win. That’s normal in any election. It’s also normal for candidates to be angry and search for reasons why they lost. But we are a nation of laws. If candidates feel that the contest was unfair, they are allowed to seek legal recourse. This is how the constitutional process works, and recounts and litigation happen in some form or another nearly every election. Democracy can sometimes be messy. 

Though they are within their rights, those challenging results also have a duty to act responsibly — and with evidence. This election has seen a number of completely baseless claims about its fairness, a number of them focused on Michigan. If candidates cannot furnish proof of their claims, they must do the right thing and concede. 

A peaceful transfer of power has long been a feature of our system. Alleging impropriety without evidence is playing a dangerous game with our democracy. It is up to the American people to decide their leaders, not the leaders. And voters have spoken. 

We served in opposite parties in Congress, and we have principled disagreements. But in moments like this, we must unite to move forward. Michigan, like the rest of the country, faces immense challenges. COVID-19 cases are surging in our state. It’s time to put partisan differences aside for the greater good. Our nation has seen other difficult moments, from world wars to depressions, and even other pandemics. But we’ve always emerged stronger than before. It is our patriotic duty to do so once again. 

Republican Joe Schwarz is a former congressman and physician who represented Michigan’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2005-07. Democrat Bart Stupak is a former congressman who represented Michigan’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011. Both are members of Issue One’s bipartisan ReFormers Caucus of over 200 former members of Congress, governors and cabinet officials who advocate for solutions to fix our broken political system.