Belated democratic normalcy: Transition officially begins as Michigan finalizes count
President Trump's scramble to postpone the inevitable by desecrating democracy failed for good Monday afternoon.
The General Services Administration formally ascertained that President-elect Joe Biden is the "apparent winner" of the Nov. 3 election, allowing the government's essential role in the peaceful transfer of power to begin after a delay of nearly three weeks. The agency's head, Trump appointee Emily Murphy, told Biden of the decision right after Trump's effort to subvert the vote failed in Michigan.
The state's normally obscure Board of State Canvassers voted 3-0, with one of the two Republicans abstaining, to formalize election results showing Biden carried the state by 154,000 votes. The action was a devastating setback for Trump's already almost-impossible effort to reverse his re-election loss. It left unblemished, as a tangibly comprehensive failure, the the president's campaign to poison the nation's confidence in the election.
More than 30 lawsuits, in six of the states he lost, have not produced a single piece of evidence of election fraud that a judge has been willing to accept — most recently Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's baseless effort to get the results in Pennsylvania tossed out, which a federal judge dismissed in scathing terms Saturday night.
"This cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state," Judge Matthew Brann, a Republican, wrote. "Our people, laws, and institutions demand more."
If anything, the litigation ironically ends up supporting the exact opposite argument Trump is making: The election was not marred by any serious irregularities.
To be sure, the president's steady stream of Twitter disinformation has persuaded a significant share of the electorate — almost all of them his Republican base — that widespread fraud has made the results not credible. And the GOP leadership in Congress and most state governments has enabled though its collective silence this unprecedented presidential campaign to sully the foundation of the American republic
The margin of Biden's victory is 2.8 percentage points in Michigan. But The Republican National Committee and the state GOP wanted the canvassing board to postpone a lockdown of the result for two weeks to allow for an inquiry into alleged problems in Detroit. (The state Democratic Party concedes there are irregularities in a few precincts, but they involve no more than 450 votes.)
The consensus view of the state's election law was that, since Wayne County (which includes Detroit) and all the other 82 counties have certified their results, the state board had no discretion but to sign off on the totals. If the board had declined to do that right away, the Michigan Supreme Court would presumably have ordered it to do so as soon as it was asked to intervene.
Any suspense was ended when one GOP member, Aaron Van Langevelde, opened the meeting by saying "we've got a duty to do this" and certify the count — but only after hundreds of public comments were heard first.
Any other decision would have marked one of the president's few victories in the three weeks since Election Day — and fomented new talk about a constitutional crisis. But it's still highly likely such an impasse would have been short-lived. A standoff, had it lasted long enough, would theoretically have put the fate of the state's 16 electoral votes in the hands of the GOP-controlled Legislature. Its two top leaders were summoned to the White House on Friday, and later spent the night at the Trump International Hotel, but after meeting the president they said they know of now reason why the outcome in their stature should not be Biden winning.
Even under the extraordinarily unlikely scenario in which Michigan's electoral votes were put in limbo or even handed to Trump, Biden would still have 290, or 20 more than he needs.
And any Trump effort to throw into chaos more states that Biden won narrowly would have few options. Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is set to certify the results as soon as Monday afternoon in Pennsylvania: Biden secured its 20 electoral votes by a margin of 81,000 popular votes. Nevada plans to do so Tuesday: Biden won its 6 electoral votes by more than 33,000. Arizona and Wisconsin are on course to certify their results next week.
By law, presidential results certified by Dec. 8 are immune from additional challenges — and many senior Republicans have signaled they are willing to wait until then before declaring the election is over and Biden won.
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania did so Saturday night, after Trump's lawsuit was dismissed. "To ensure that he is remembered for these outstanding accomplishments, and to help unify our country, President Trump should accept the outcome of the election and facilitate the presidential transition process," he said.
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