'We Lifted Up Our Voices': The Public Comment After Michigan's Canvassers Voted To Certify
Many stopped watching the Board of State Canvassers meeting after canvassers voted 3-0 to certify Michigan's November election results, but hundreds of people who were worried about being disenfranchised stayed on the line to comment.
More than 28,000 people tuned into the Board of State Canvassers meeting via Youtube Monday as the eyes of the nation focused on whether Michigan’s November election results would be certified. Many stopped watching after canvassers voted 3-0 to certify, but hundreds of people who were worried about being disenfranchised stayed on the line to comment.
One woman called in from the road with the sound of her blinker ticking in the background, others futzed with Zoom hurriedly rushing to re-open their screens after being on the meeting for hours. The most common refrain: “Hello, can you hear me?”
In the last hour of public comment—people had 90 seconds to speak. Democratic Canvasser Jeanette Bradshaw was part-time chair, part time live emcee of the blockbuster meeting telling callers, “thank you for joining us” after giving instructions to state and spell their names and admonishing them about their time limits.
Johanna Bogater, a city commissioner from the Upper Peninsula, waited in a long line of 800 people signed up for public comment. By the time she joined in the 9 o’clock hour, she’d waited eight hours to speak.
“Good evening, thank you for your time and allowing me the opportunity to speak. What a wild ride. I’ve been with you since 1 p.m.”
We Michiganders, all of us: Black, white, brown, rich or poor, Native or newcomer, we turned out in record numbers to vote and in record numbers we made a decision about who we want to represent us. If the outcome makes anyone uncomfortable it is not a reason to disenfranchise those voices.
Bogater thanked the three canvassers who voted to certify the results—a ministerial duty which legal experts and election officials noted they were required to do.
“We Michiganders, all of us. Black, white, brown, rich or poor, Native or newcomer we turned out in record numbers to vote and in record numbers we made a decision about who we want to represent us. If the outcome makes anyone uncomfortable it’s not a reason to disenfranchise those voices,” said Bogater.
In the last hour calls came from older Black voters, election workers, government officials, and a college student who’d been on since the meeting started. Many marveled, along with Bogater at the record turnout—more than 5.5 million Michiganders voted this November—a feat which occurred during a global pandemic and after voting laws in the state had changed to allow no-reason absentee voting.
Election officials and a bipartisan cadre of clerks around the state have agreed, aside from marginal human errors, this election went on without a hitch despite continued claims of “irregularities” from the Michigan GOP, RNC, and President Donald Trump.
Robin Smith was a precinct chair in Lansing this election cycle. She quoted Thurgood Marshall and praised the transparency of the process before pointedly adding:
“The citizens of Michigan, that’s right the voters, came out in force during a pandemic. We lifted up our voices. We stand. And we will not stand for the deliberate attempt to target and disenfranchise Black and brown voters here in Michigan.”
Connie R. Mitchell introduced herself as a proud 73-year old Black voter who has worked for years in the City of Inkster, MI to get people to understand their votes count. Mitchell said her city saw record turnout.
“And we think the efforts of a number of us in the city who did some of everything amid the COVID pandemic made a difference in what happened. We would hate them to go back to thinking their vote does not count,” said Mitchell.
She said she was concerned that what she watched play out over the past few weeks was an attempt to disenfranchise voters, especially Black voters.
Yet she thanked the canvassers who certified, “And I would like to thank the three of you who voted to certify the state of Michigan this afternoon. I applaud you for your courage.”
Most callers in the last hour expressed appreciation that the canvassers certified. When their 90 seconds were up, a timer started to ring, and they’d be put back on mute.
The meeting, a normally mundane bureaucratic process, was briefly at the center of American democracy. Yet, after many tuned out it was also a rare second chance for these voters, after casting their ballots, to defend their share of democracy when they felt it was being threatened. And they waited eight hours for their voices to be heard to make a brief defense.