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‘Two people completely racist’: A poll challenger unleashed on Michigan Republicans when they attempted to stop vote certification

Ned Staebler delivered a heated statement directed toward two Michigan Republicans over their efforts to block vote certification in the Detroit area.
Ned Staebler delivered a heated statement directed toward two Michigan Republicans over their efforts to block vote certification in the Detroit area.Zoom meeting

A Michigan businessman’s heated public comment directed toward two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers who had voted to block the certification of votes in the Detroit area has gone viral.

Following Ned Staebler’s impassioned remarks, and those of other community members, the two officials reversed course and the board unanimously certified its presidential election results for the state’s largest county Tuesday night.

“I just want to let you know that the Trump stink — the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have just covered yourself in is going to follow you throughout history,” Staebler, a graduate of Harvard University according to his Linkedin profile, fired at the two canvassers.

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Staebler continued: “Your grandchildren are going to think of you as Bull Connor or George Wallace,” two Southern segregationists opposed to the Civil Rights movement.

The canvassers had first rejected certification of the Detroit-area vote with a 2-2 tie — a move that was widely condemned by Democrats. Hartmann and Palmer blocked the move in a party-line vote, which had threatened to delay the approval of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state.

Palmer had said poll books in certain Detroit precincts were out of balance and suggested certifying the suburbs but not Detroit, though poll books in suburban precincts were also out of balance — a point Staebler drilled home.

“Monica Palmer and William Hartmann will 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,” Staebler said.

Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold, by more than a 2-1 margin and won the state by 146,000 votes, according to unofficial results. Detroit is almost 80 percent Black, according to US Census data, as compared to the mostly white surrounding suburbs.

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The board met after days of unsuccessful litigation filed by Republican poll challengers and President Trump’s allies. They claimed fraud during absentee ballot counting at a Detroit convention center, but two judges found no evidence and refused to stop the canvassing process.

“Just know when you try to sleep tonight that millions of people around the world now on Twitter know the name Monica Palmer and William Hartmann as two people completely racist and without an understanding of what integrity means or a shred of human decency,” Staebler said.

He added: “The law isn’t on your side, history won’t be on your side, your conscience will not be on your side.”

Staebler wasn’t the only one who called out Palmer and Hartmann for perceived voter disenfranchisement during the meeting’s public comment period over Zoom.

Reverend Wendell Anthony, a well-known pastor and head of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, called the pair a “disgrace.”

“You have dishonored the legacy of veterans, the legacy of seniors, the legacy of all of those who’ve been left out and miscounted for generations,” Anthony said, his voice rising.

In an interview with Don Lemon on CNN, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist said Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers had been “working to strip voters of their voice and their power,” and that he applauded those who partook in the democratic process to change their decision.

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“We always say that the people united will never be defeated. And I just saw people really stepping up and saying that we voted, we spoke,” Gilchrist said. “That our truth will always be heard and will always be felt. And so I’m proud of people who raised their voices.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan issued a similar remark. In a statement, Duggan said he was glad “to see common sense prevail in the end,” and thanked citizens for standing up for their beliefs.

“Had the Board of Canvassers disenfranchised 1.4 million Wayne County voters over partisan politics, it would have been a historically shameful act,” he said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.



Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.