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AG Nessel, Secretary Benson on Duty of Canvassers to Certify Election Results

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are reminding members of Michigan Boards of County Canvassers of their ministerial duty to certify election results following a delay in Delta County.  The Delta County Board of Canvassers voted to certify the county's May 7, 2024, election after an initial delay, heeding the advice of the Department of State and Department of Attorney General.  

Ahead of the May 14th Delta County Board of Canvassers meeting, two members publicly indicated they may vote against certification following a recall election in which three sitting County Commissioners were recalled. In the meeting that evening, the Board deadlocked 2-2 on certifying the election. 

In response, the Department of State (DOS) sent a letter (PDF) to the canvassers warning them of the consequences of failing to certify the results.  Those included: 

  • A misdemeanor Willful Neglect of Duty criminal charge; 
  • Delivery of Election Records to the Bureau of Elections in Lansing by the Canvassers; and, 
  • Substantial costs to the County, for which the Canvassers may be personally responsible. 

“Canvassers are legally required to certify the election results that are brought before them once the legal requirements have been met,” said Nessel. “Defying the will of the people based on conjecture, dissatisfaction in the results, or any other reason not based on Michigan law, will not be tolerated. While the Delta County Board ultimately met their obligations, and as a result have avoided the legal consequences, let this serve as a warning to all of the boards of canvassers across the state that the willful neglect of your duties is a criminal act.” 

“Michigan’s law requires bipartisan boards of canvassers to carefully review election returns and certify our elections based on the election returns,” Benson said. “There is no room for canvassers to go beyond their authority, take the law into their own hands, or undermine the will of Michigan’s voters. Any canvassing board members that fail to fulfill their responsibilities under the law will see swift action to ensure the legal certification of election results, which will involve significant unnecessary costs for their local communities, along with possible civil and criminal charges against those members for their actions.”  

The Constitution and Michigan Election Law do not authorize canvassers to refuse to certify election results based on claims made by third parties of alleged election irregularities, or a general desire to conduct election investigations.  The statutes further define the obligation of canvassers as a “ministerial, clerical and nondiscretionary” duty to certify election results based solely on election returns. 

Proper venues of recourse for individuals who have reviewed available election material and believe fraud occurred exist, which include contacting local law enforcement and/or filing a challenge through the courts. As explained in the letter from the DOS, "Accordingly, there are multiple separate, independent ways for election records to be reviewed and investigations to be conducted, as necessary. However, that is not the purpose of the canvass, as explained above. The purpose of the canvass, as mandated in the Michigan Constitution and Michigan Election Law, is to review the election returns and certify the election solely based on the returns." 

The Department of State’s communication to the Delta County canvassers included a 2022 letter (PDF) from the Department of Attorney General to Senator Jeremy Moss explaining that canvassing involves ministerial, nondiscretionary duties required by law to be performed, and that the failure to adhere to the law may expose canvassers to liability. 


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