At issue in Wayne County were minor discrepancies in which the number of votes cast did not match the number of voters listed as having shown up to vote in various election precincts. This could have stemmed from scenarios like a voter leaving a long line, or an absentee ballot kicked out of a tabulator, among other possibilities. Most involved a handful of votes, and were the types of inconsistencies that are frequently found during canvassing processes without leading to deadlocks like the one that happened on Tuesday.
Sensing that Republicans might play politics with the certification, Representatives Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib, two Democrats from metro Detroit, started making calls around 1:30 p.m., urging Democrats to join the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting to ensure that the election results would actually be certified. Requests to join the Zoom call quickly went beyond capacity, with 300 people on the digital meeting when it started around 4:45 p.m.
After the first 2-to-2 vote, all of those participants stayed and the board opened up the meeting to public comment. A broad coalition — Detroit voters, clergy members, Middle Eastern immigrants, Black women, environmentalists, civil rights leaders and people who had worked at the polls and the absentee voting center — spoke out on the deadlock, repeatedly calling the Republican members racist and saying they were trying to disenfranchise Detroit voters.
“The Trump stain, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have covered yourself in, is going to follow you throughout history,” said Ned Staebler, the chief executive of TechTown, a high-tech business incubator in Detroit and a poll challenger at T.C.F. Center in the city. He said the two Republican members would “forever be known in southeastern Michigan as two racists who did something so unprecedented that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Black voters in the city of Detroit.”
The video call went mute for about five minutes at roughly 9 p.m., after about three hours of angry commentary by people dialing into the meeting. When the board came back, its members informed the crowd that they had just voted unanimously to certify the results and ordered Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to conduct a thorough audit of the Wayne County results, especially the precincts with disparities. They didn’t explain how the reversal had come about.
“The people who were there told the truth,” Ms. Dingell said. “And it worked.”
A senior adviser to Mr. Biden, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the trouble at the canvassing board as one in a series of stunts by Mr. Trump and his allies to stave off the inevitable certification of a Biden victory at the Electoral College.
A senior adviser to Mr. Trump, Justin Clark, said the campaign had played no role at the canvassing board. “This wasn’t us,” he said.