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Nessel investigating threats against county canvassers

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday that her office is investigating threats against election officials in Wayne County, where two Republicans voted against certifying the results last week before reversing course.

Monica Palmer, the chair of the county’s canvassing board, told state canvassers Monday that she had been sent graphic text messages threatening her daughter and saying “my entire family should be fearful for our lives.”

The initial decision by Palmer and fellow Republican member William Hartmann to not certify the votes in the Democratic stronghold of Wayne — including Joe Biden’s 332,000-vote landslide over President Donald Trump — sparked anger. Some social media users “doxxed” them, posting their personal information online.

But Trump reached out to both GOP canvassers to express gratitude for their support. The next day, they signed affidavits unsuccessfully trying to revert to their stance of refusing to bless the tallies.

The Board of State Canvassers on Monday certified Michigan’s Nov. 3 results, including wins by Biden and Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

“We will investigate any credible complaints of threats to government officials, elected or appointed, and will prosecute criminal conduct to the fullest extent of the law,” Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Serving the people — regardless of party — is an honorable but sometimes difficult and thankless task. And while many of us have been subjected to hateful and often obscene insults, threats of violence and harm will not be tolerated.”

The attorney general said her criminal division opened its investigation shortly after the Nov. 17 Wayne County Board of Canvasser’s meeting.

Jonathan Kinloch, the Democratic vice-chair of the four-member board, said he was interviewed by state investigators Sunday. He said some people who spoke at the meeting were “rude,” but he never felt threatened.

People were “outraged,” he said, after Palmer at one point suggested certifying the county votes except in Detroit, which is 79% Black, because poll books in city precincts were out of balance, even though Livonia — which is 91% white — had similar issues.

“This is 2020. History’s behind us. We know exactly the plight of Black folks and the history of Black people and our right to vote. They should already know that, especially her,” Kinloch said.

But he said the intimidating texts that Palmer mentioned are “unacceptable.”

“If anyone was dumb enough to send that text, I would imagine … some folks will have to answer some questions,” Kinloch said.

When the four-member state board met Monday, Republican member Norm Shinkle — who abstained from certifying the votes — reported that he and the other GOP canvasser, Aaron Van Langevelde, had been threatened. Van Langevelde joined two Democrats in confirming the election results.

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