LAKE ANN — Lake Ann resident Judy Baker stayed up until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday watching election results. After a couple hours of sleep she was up and at it again by 7:30 a.m.
“I’m a Democrat so I’m feeling much better now than I did last night,” said Baker, who was a poll watcher until the pandemic hit. “I’m feeling pretty positive.”
By Wednesday evening Michigan had been put in former vice president Joe Biden’s column, giving him 16 electoral votes in a race that has been a nail biter.
Things got more complicated on Wednesday when President Donald J. Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit to halt the vote count in Michigan, where Biden maintained a small lead early in the day.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement that the campaign “has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law.”
Trump filed a similar suit in Pennsylvania, where he had a sizable lead that began to shrink as more mail-in ballots were counted. Trump has also called for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden had a small lead.
In Leelanau County, normally a Republican stronghold, voters chose Biden over Trump on a vote of 8,793 to 7,915. Vote totals have not yet been certified.
Jim Muennich of Suttons Bay is not surprised at the results, adding that it didn’t hold true for down ballot races. Like most Americans, he also watched election returns throughout Wednesday.
“This is like the Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s like a blood sport.”
Muennich does not think there is any fraud going on with the vote counts, but that the powers that be are using the rules to their advantage, which he says is not cheating.
He does not think votes that come in past the deadline on Election Day should be counted.
“If someone didn’t know there was an election and couldn’t get their ballot in on time they forfeit their right to vote,” Muennich said. “With rights come responsibilities.”
In Antrim County, apparently “skewed,” results stirred chaos by midday Wednesday.
County Clerk Sheryl Guy announced the misleading count shortly after releasing unofficial election results at about 4 a.m.
At this point, the problem is being handled in-county, according to Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman with Michigan’s Office of the Secretary of State.
“We wanna be able to contribute correct figures to Michigan’s tally as a state,” Guy said, sharing intentions to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. “We’re working hard to get that report done — and done correctly.”
Guy and her staff ran the last of precinct results as usual.
That process is largely automated — election results are entered into a tabulation program, which adds votes by precinct and candidate and spits out a total count.
That’s where Guy suspects things went wrong — she said Wednesday the tabulator software essentially mistranslated tallies from reporting software.
The malfunction generated unofficial results with bizarrely low vote totals for several candidates, and a look spurred Guy to flag and remove the erroneous results.
She’s never encountered such an issue with the county’s election software, which was adopted in 2018.
A more thorough inspection is conducted by the Board of Canvassers, a group tasked with checking and certifying results.
This year’s presidential election, the first in Michigan to allow no-reason absentee ballots, came with added pressure from outstanding mail-in votes and massive voter turnout.
Fellow county, village and township officials said they support Guy.
“I say this as honestly as I can: I have all the faith in the world in Sheryl Guy,” Antrim County Sheriff Dan Bean said. “I’m sure they’re gonna get things straightened out before it’s all done.”
He kept an eye on still-pending results through the afternoon, and said he was eager to check out final counts.
Guy expected to fix the problem by late Wednesday and release accurate results early Thursday.
In Benzie County, which has been called a bellwether county, unofficial vote totals show Trump was the winner with 6,600 votes to Biden’s 5,480.
If Biden is elected 2020 would become only the fourth time the county has missed calling the presidential race since 1950.
JoAnne Appelhof of Beulah was up until 2 a.m. watching election results. The former poll observer, challenger and Benzie County GOP delegate said she’s disappointed the counting process was dragging on so long.
Appelhof hopes Trump wins reelection although she acknowledged things weren’t looking good for him. She believes the Democratic Party is being overtaken by socialism and objects to the idea of people expecting help from the government, whether they need it or not.
Either way, Appelhof hopes the election results aren’t dragged through the courts, and thinks lawmakers should step in to fix election rules.
“After this is all over, I believe they need to pass some legislation that it should be nationwide that all ballots have to be in by midnight on the day of the election,” she said.
Baker said northern Michigan has been red for many, many years. While more populated areas like Traverse City have become more progressive, rural areas remain Republican.
There is a lot of controversy and fear out there, Baker said, but she believes the two sides have much in common, that they care about many of the same issues — the pandemic, education and health care, to name a few.
“I think there’s some space in there where we need to close that gap,” Baker said. “We need to have that conversation.”
Record-Eagle Reporter Brooke Kansier contributed to this report.