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Saturday, November 28, 2020

MDHHS issues citations, Liquor Control Commission suspends liquor licenses for violations of public health order to contain COVID-19 spread

On Wednesday, Nov. 25, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued citations and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) suspended liquor licenses to establishments that are in violation of the recent public health order issued on Sunday, Nov. 15, which was put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health by establishing restrictions on gatherings, including prohibiting gatherings of patrons in food service establishments.*

Café Rosetta in Calumet was among those fined for violations.

The MLCC issued emergency suspensions of the liquor licenses and permits held by Michigan businesses in Fremont, Newaygo and Fenton. Licensees’ multiple violations of the current MDHHS Emergency Order include the following:

  • Allowing non-residential, in-person gatherings.
  • Providing in-person dining.
  • Failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons.
  • Failure to prohibit patrons from congregating.

"Our office is working closely with the Commission as it exercises its duties and we are prepared to prosecute these summary suspensions," said Attorney General Dana Nessel. "Although none of us wants to take such actions, the deliberate and blatant defiance of the state emergency public health orders by these owners put their businesses at risk. While we are heartbroken at the toll these closures invariably have on the businesses affected, first and foremost the state has an obligation to protect the lives of our residents."

MLCC Commissioners ordered emergency suspensions of the liquor licenses and permits held by the following:

    Cory’s Restaurant, Inc. d/b/a Jimmy’s Roadhouse located at 8574 S. Mason Dr., Newaygo. The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of its licenses and permits: Class C and SDM liquor licenses with a Specific Purpose Permit (Food), Outdoor Service Area Permit, Sunday Sales (P.M.) Permit, and Dance Permit on Nov. 24, 2020.
    B. and D., LLC d/b/a Brew Works of Fremont, located at 5885 S. Warner Ave., Fremont. The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of the Class C/Specially Designated Merchant (SDM) and Brew Pub licenses, and permits for an additional bar, Dance-Entertainment, Catering, Sunday Sales (P.M.), Outdoor Service, Specific Purpose (Food), Specific Purpose (Golf), and Specific Purpose (Bowling) on Nov. 24, 2020.
    The Meeting Place LLC, located at 3600 Owen Rd, Fenton.  The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of the Class C and Specially Designated Merchant licenses and permits for Sunday Sales (A.M. and P.M.) and Outdoor Service on Nov. 25, 2020.

A virtual hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is scheduled on Dec. 4, 2020, for each of the above-named licensees via Zoom to determine whether this summary suspension should continue, or other fines and penalties should be imposed.

In addition, citations were issued by MDHHS to the following establishments, with penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation or day that a violation continues:

 -   Big Boy of Sandusky, 422 West Sanilac, Sandusky ($5,000)
 -   Café Rosetta, 102 Fifth Street, Calumet ($1,000)
 -   Woodchips Barbecue, 315 West Nepessing Street, Lapeer ($1,000)
 -   The Meeting Place, 3600 Owen Road, Fenton ($1,000)

Information was received by MDHHS from local health departments and local law enforcement regarding non-compliance with the order. The civil fines are due within 30 days of receipt of the citations. Additional establishments are slated to be cited.

"The vast majority of restaurant and bar owners are doing the right thing and they have temporarily closed their indoor service to help prevent the spread of the virus," said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. "We know this is not easy for anyone, this is not an action we take lightly, but the sooner we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 the sooner we can all get back to doing the things we enjoy."

As of Wednesday, Nov. 25, there had been more than 320,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, resulting in more than 8,600 deaths. Michigan’s COVID-19 daily death average has quadrupled in the last five weeks.

"Cases of COVID-19 are incredibly high across the state, and these orders are in place to help prevent the spread of the virus, save lives, and protect our frontline workers,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. "We need to do everything we can to alleviate the stress on our hospitals and health care workers. Food service establishments like restaurants and bars can help play a critical role by following the order and most of them are doing their part."

The public can report any suspected non-compliance issue at an establishment directly to the MLCC online or by calling the MLCC Enforcement hotline, toll-free, at 866-893-2121.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Inset photos: Attorney General Dana Nessel, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. (Photos courtesy michigan.gov)

*Editor's Note: See our Nov. 17, 2020, article, "MDHHS issues 3-week Epidemic Order, effective Nov. 18, to save lives, protect frontline heroes during Fall COVID-19 surge."

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Michigan Board of State Canvassers certifies state voting results with hours of public comment; GSA acknowledges Biden victory

 By Michele Bourdieu

In a lengthy, live-streamed meeting on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, members of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers meet to take public comment before and after their vote to certify the Michigan 2020 general election results. (Photo by Keweenaw Now) 

LANSING -- Following about three hours of listening to public comments and sometimes questioning the speakers or commenting themselves, the four members of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted Monday afternoon, Nov. 23, to certify the Michigan 2020 general election results. The vote was three "yes" and one abstention.

Board Chair Jeannette Bradshaw, Democrat; Board Vice-Chair Aaron Van Langevelde, Republican; and Julie Matuzak, Democrat, voted "yes." Norman D. Shinkle, Republican, abstained.

In a press release issued shortly after the vote Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer stated, "I commend the three members of the State Board of Canvassers who voted to follow the law and certify the 2020 election results today. The people of Michigan have spoken. President-elect Biden won the State of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th. I also want to thank Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the local clerks across Michigan who made sure this year's election was free, fair and secure, and the voters who turned out in record numbers to make their voices heard. Now, it’s time to put this election behind us and come together as a state to defeat our common enemy: COVID-19."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also commended the State Board of Canvassers for their certification vote.

"I commend the members of the Board of State Canvassers for today’s vote to certify our election results. A record number of citizens turned out to vote in an election that was fair, secure and transparent. It is now the responsibility of every official and leader in this country to ensure that the will of the voters is heard. The Board’s actions today did exactly that in Michigan and I appreciate and respect their courage under these historic circumstances."

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also commented positively on Monday, and she noted audits to follow.

"Democracy has prevailed," Benson said. "Today’s vote of the State Board of Canvassers to certify Michigan’s November election confirms the truth: the election was fair and secure, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters.

"A record breaking 5.5 million Michigan citizens cast ballots in this election, more than ever before in our state’s history. Their will is clear and unequivocal.

"Now we turn to the important work of implementing a statewide risk limiting audit and local procedural audits to affirm the integrity of the process and identify opportunities for improvement. And we will continue working with lawmakers at the state and federal level to strengthen our elections even further in the months ahead.

"Our democracy, like the election officials who administer it, is resilient. Today it and they survived an unprecedented attack on its integrity. There will no doubt be more similar attacks in the future, based in falsehoods and misinformation. But then, as now, we will be ready to respond as always with facts, data, and the truth."

CNN: After Michigan Board certification, GSA acknowledges Biden's win

Zachary B. Wolf of CNN's "What Matters" in an email Monday evening, Nov. 23, said the vote by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers has "likely" ended President Trump's attempt to steal the presidential election.

"After the Michigan board certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory there, the Trump-appointed head of the GSA (General Services Administration) ended her blockade and 'ascertained,' Biden's victory, unlocking funds for Biden to pay transition staff and work with the current government," Wolf wrote.

In a Nov. 23, 2020, letter addressed to The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., GSA Administrator Emily Murphy writes the following:

"As you know, the GSA Administrator does not pick or certify the winner of a presidential election.  Instead, the GSA Administrator’s role under the Act is extremely narrow: to make resources and services available in connection with a presidential transition. As stated, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request. The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.

"Section 7 of the Act and Public Law 116-159, dated October 1, 2020, which provides continuing appropriations until December 11, 2020, makes $6,300,000 available to you to carry out the provisions of Section 3 of the Act. In addition, $1,000,000 is authorized, pursuant to Public Law 116-159, to provide appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory. I remind you that Section 6 of the Act imposes reporting requirements on you as a condition for receiving services and funds from GSA."*

Public comments, questions from Board members precede, follow certification vote

For the first three hours of the meeting on Monday afternoon, members of the Board of State Canvassers listened to several comments from city and township clerks, elected officials and poll workers. Board members asked questions of some of the speakers. Here are some excerpts:

Christopher Thomas, senior advisor to Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey for the general election, said he was involved in the planning for the Nov. 3 election and was prepared to answer questions from the Board.

"Detroit had 174,000 mail ballots, representing 68 percent of the vote," Thomas said. "So the desire to vote by mail in a time of pandemic was palpable in the city of Detroit." 

Thomas pointed out several improvements in Detroit over previous elections, such as technology and extensive planning to handle the mail-in ballots, including 21 satellite sites and 30 drop boxes around the city.

Board member Norman Shinkle asked Thomas if he knew of any circumstances that would allow a delay in state certification.

"Without a 'yes' you don't have anything," Thomas said.

He noted that the law says recounts, audits and investigations are waiting for this Board to act.

"If you have the completed returns, I don't think you can adjourn," Thomas said. "I think you're mandated to certify when you have the complete results.

Board Vice-Chair Aaron Van Langevelde said he wanted to clarify the role of the Board of State Canvassers. He noted the election law says the Board "shall" (has a legal duty to) canvass the state results based on the certified results from all the counties and asked Thomas if he was aware of legal authority beyond that. 

Thomas said he believed the Board has no further authority. It cannot investigate fraud. It is not a judicial body.

Daniel Baxter, director of elections for the city of Detroit, who was in charge of all activities involved in tabulating absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election, spoke in detail about the people recruited and trained to tabulate those ballots, the use of the electronic poll book for accuracy and efficiency, the shifts organized for the poll workers and more. The training and preparation extended from Sept. 23 to Oct. 31. He spoke of how proud he was of the poll workers and their supervisors.

"No matter what happened on election day, whether or not challengers shouted 'Stop the vote' in the TCF Center, whether or not they were violating social distancing rules or whether they stood in the middle of the processing center without their mask on, nothing and I mean nothing deterred our poll workers from being engaged," Baxter said. "They stayed focused throughout that entire operation."**

Despite just returning from the hospital and dealing with a serious medical emergency in her home, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey spoke later during the meeting saying she wished to assure voters that her position and the Detroit office of elections are nonpartisan.

"My charge is to administer the election process, ensure that voters know when the election day is, and ensure that they know where they go and vote on election day," Winfrey said.

Confirming what Baxter said about the training of poll workers, Winfrey added that they went to great lengths to assure an open, transparent, professional process.

Shinkle challenged both Baxter and Winfrey about hiring enough Republican poll workers. Winfrey said some applied too late to be trained properly and some did not admit what their political party was so she could not say for sure that there was one Republican for each precinct.

Some University of Michigan law students, who observed the polling process in the TCF, commented on the professional attitude of the poll workers, even when they were harassed as Baxter had described.

Sumner Truax, a resident of Ann Arbor, was one of these students.

"I saw no fraud, no impropriety on the part of the poll workers. I saw hundreds of professional, dedicated civil servants who were doing the important and frankly the mundane work that makes our democracy run -- which is just counting the votes," Truax said. "And that so many people turned out in the middle of a global pandemic to serve our country is, I think, the sign of a healthy democracy."

However, he added, democracy is only healthy if the votes matter and if their work matters.

"And it's healthy only if the gatekeepers, who are you, people like you, do your jobs," Truax told the Board.

Elizabeth Temkin, a third-year University of Michigan law student, observed absentee vote counting at the TCF Center as a nonpartisan challenger. She said she spent most of the afternoon on Nov. 4 at one table, where word got around that a lawsuit had been filed and soon the Republican challenger at her table said she would be challenging every ballot coming forward -- for no particular reason.

"The only way to describe this was an effort to suppress the votes of a predominantly Black and presumably Democratic electorate," Temkin said. "It was stunning to see such a large-scale effort to disenfranchise voters, and it has been even more disheartening to witness what has followed -- repeated attempts to undermine the democratic process."

Jeff Timmer, who was a member of the Board of State Canvassers from 2009 to 2012, said if the Board has all the returns of the election from the counties it must certify the results today (Nov. 23).

Timmer noted whether the margin of votes is more than 154,000 as in Biden's lead over Trump in Michigan or a narrower margin as it was four years ago, the Board has a routine administerial function to certify the results.

"Do your mandatory duty. Certify Michigan's election results," he told the Board.

Noting he agreed with Timmer on the obligation of the Board to certify the returns, Van Langevelde asked Timmer whether, in his experience on the Board, there was ever any authority for them to go beyond the returns and review anything else.

Timmer noted there were times when the Board deadlocked on language, but they were reminded by the courts that they had an obligation to follow the letter of the law and did not have the liberty to insert their opinions.

Susan Nash, Livonia City Clerk and president of the Association of Wayne County Clerks, said they had record numbers of voters and there were some human errors, but she believed the voters need to know their voices were heard and their votes were counted.

"I'm all for an audit," Nash said. "We need to certify this election so we can move forward so we can do an audit, so we can look into this, and we can let the voters know that everything was done."

Nash added she appreciated Livonia's 300 to 400 poll workers as well as all the clerks in Michigan who worked hard so the voters could have their voices heard.

Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk, said she represented the 145,569 voters in Ingham County and the more than 5.5 million Michiganders who voted in this election.

"It is up to the 83 County Boards of Canvassers, not the State, to certify the vote totals within their jurisdiction," Byrum said. "The State does not get to do the County's job under state law."

Byrum said the job of the Board of State Canvassers is only to certify the election numbers from the counties as given to them by the Secretary of State. Anything else, including an attempt to postpone the certification, would be a "power grab" that would disenfranchise the voters, she added.

Byrum noted the current assault on democracy has its source in President Trump, who is putting pressure on elected representatives to bend to his will. However, she said she had faith in this State Board to do their duty and certify the election.

"The eyes of our Nation are on the four of you today. They are watching and they are waiting," Byrum said.

In spite of the testimonies of previous speakers that delaying the certification would be illegal, Laura Cox, Michigan Republican Party chair, asked the Board to do just that.

Cox complained that Republican challengers who observed the process of vote counting, especially those in the TCF center, were treated with disrespect and hostility. She accused the Attorney General and the Secretary of State of antagonism as well.

"... I implore the Board of Canvassers to provide a meaningful review of Wayne County," Cox said.

Monica Palmer, Republican chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, answered questions from Shinkle on her county board's meeting for certification, where she had first voted against certification and later voted "yes."

Palmer said, after the certification vote was tied, that she decided later to vote "yes" on advice from Jonathan Kinloch, vice-chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, that an audit could be done. However, she wasn't aware that an audit could not be done before certification. She also complained about threats against her family.

76th Michigan House District Representative Rachel Hood of Grand Rapids confirmed that Secretary of State Benson has said there will be a statewide audit, after certification. She noted there is no legal or logical basis for delaying certification.

"This is a managerial and simple task that's necessary in order to resolve the very concerns individuals may be sharing about the accuracy of our election," Hood said. "We need the certification in order to move forward with verification."

Just before the vote to certify, three members of the Board of State Canvasssers made their own comments on the Nov. 3 election.

Vice-Chair Van Langevelde said, "I think any allegation of voter fraud should be taken seriously and investigated. I believe in this case a post-election audit should be conducted, and I believe complaints of election fraud need to be investigated and if found must be prosecuted under the law. The state law is clear that we do not have that authority and other entities do. And I encourage those state officials to act and do what they can to preserve election integrity."

Van Langevelde added that this Board has an obligation to follow the law as written and not attempt to exercise power they do not have.

"We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election as shown by the returns that were given to us," he said. We cannot and should not go beyond that."

Board member Shinkle gave several references to past Michigan elections, claiming that Michigan has a problem conducting elections since confusion and uncertainty follow the state's elections. He called for a review of Michigan's election procedures to avoid problems in future elections.

"I am asking the Michigan legislature to conduct an in-depth review of all election processes and procedures in Michigan," Shinkle said.

He made a motion for the Board to vote on presenting this request to the legislature. Following the certification vote, the Board voted on that motion, which passed 4-0.

Board member Julie Matuzak, who made the motion to vote for the certification, also said she agreed with Shinkle that Michigan needs to look at its election procedures and modernize them to assure voters that elections are fair. She mentioned the ballot proposal changes that made it easier to vote absentee and to register the same day as voting.

"We have to allow for earlier processing of absentee ballots, in my opinion," Matuzak said.

She noted while she didn't see evidence of fraud there are lots of human errors in the election process.

"There are many things the legislature and only the legislature can do to fix this."

For about six more hours after the certification vote, people who still wished to comment remained on line for the chance to speak for only a minute and a half.

Elizabeth Benyi of Calumet told Keweenaw Now she commented at the Board of State Canvassers meeting but wasn't able to give her comment until more than 4 hours into the meeting, after the certification vote.

"I applaud the Board of Canvassers for doing what is codified in the Michigan Constitution which they swore an oath to uphold: that the Board of Canvassers shall certify the election results," Benyi said. "To do otherwise would have overturned the 5.5 million taxpayers' votes across Michigan."

She told the Board that as a voting taxpayer she had attended the Oversight Committee hearing for the State of Michigan last week and heard testimony from both Republican and Democratic county clerks that did their due diligence and duty and certified the results of the Nov. 3rd election.

"They stood by those certifications and stated in no uncertain terms the election process was secure, was fair and was correct. And I believe them. All 83 county clerks in Michigan certified their election results," Benyi added in her comment. "I also want to give a sincere shout out to all the clerks, all the poll workers and the agencies that supported the election process to keep it fair and secure in extraordinary times."

One of those who waited the longest to comment was Lansing resident Robin Smith, who served as a precinct chair in this election. Smith thanked the Board for their vote of certification. She said she welcomed the open process of having challengers observe democracy playing out.

"Michigan residents voted, their vote matters, and it counted. And in the words of Thurgood Marshall, 'Where you see wrong, inequity or injustice, speak out,'" Smith said. "We will not stand for the deliberate attempt to target and disenfranchise black and brown voters here in Michigan -- not here, not now and not in this moment. Too many people -- our forefathers and foremothers -- fought for our right to vote, and for me today I stand for our vote to stand."

Another person who waited patiently to speak, after participating early in the day in the mile-long car caravan in Lansing calling attention to the need for the certification vote, was Wayne County resident and organizer Rai LaNier of Michigan Liberation and the We Make Michigan Coalition.

"I want to first thank the Secretary of State, poll workers, ballot counters, county clerks, and the three State Board of Canvassers who did their job, respected the will of the people and conducted a free and fair election," LaNier said. "However, my biggest thanks goes to the many brave and dedicated  organizers of the great state of Michigan -- especially our black and brown, queer, trans and women organizers who despite a year of pandemic, police brutality and civilian death threats pushed through it all to get out the vote and secure historic turnout."***     

Houghton County to participate in statewide audit

Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly, who was re-elected in the Nov. 3 election, told Keweenaw Now she is happy that the Board of State Commissioners certified the election results, since every county canvassing board in Michigan had certified their votes.

"The State Board did their job," she said. 

Kelly said she will be doing the risk limit audit. This means that the state will give each county in Michigan a checklist for an audit of a minimum of three cities and/or townships in the county. She will have to verify, for these areas, almost everything that was done for the Nov. 3 election, following the checklist. Kelly will then send her findings to the state.

Barry Fink, president of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country (LWVCC), said the LWVCC members communicated this to the Board: "The election was fair, the results are accurate and it is time to move forward."

Now that the Board has certified the election, "audits will be conducted in accordance with state law," she added.

Inset photos: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. (Photos courtesy michigan.gov)

Notes:

* Click here to read the rest of the letter from GSA Administrator Emily Murphy to President-Elect Joe Biden.

** See the Nov. 6, 2020, Detroit Free Press article, "'Get to TCF': What really happened inside Detroit's ballot counting center."

*** Rai La Nier also spoke during a press conference presented on Facebook by the We Make Michigan Coalition just before the Board of State Canvassers meeting on Nov. 23, 2020. 

**** Click here for a video recording of the Nov. 23, 2020, Michigan Board of State Canvassers meeting, including public comments, on YouTube.