Why The Detroit Vote Was Legit
At least probably, mostly legit.
Detroit is an easy city for conservatives (and everyone else) to hate. It brings together all the negative urban stereotypes and makes them real in one place. Out of control crime plagues the city. The school system has been a slow-motion trainwreck for decades. City corruption is legendary; just seven years ago former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick went to jail for 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering.
In addition to the general environment of crime, corruption, and decay, the 2016 election was rife with problems in the city of Detroit. Initial reports showed more ballots than voters in 248 of 662 precincts. Votes were ‘unrecountable’ in 60% of Detroit’s precincts.
In this environment, the idea of tens of thousands of illicit ballots brought in the back door appeals to those that wanted Trump to win and already have great reason to distrust Detroit. A closer look, though, at both the investigation after the 2016 election and the actual numbers in 2020 reveals good reasons to believe that vote totals coming out of Wayne County are probably accurate.
The ghosts of 2016
So what really happened in Detroit in 2016? Initial reports sparked by Jill Stein’s abortive recount uncovered troubling inconsistencies. In one precinct, three hundred votes were cast, but when the sealed container was opened there were only fifty inside. Two hundred and fifty ballots were missing in just one precinct. Hundreds of other precincts across the state were out of balance but by far the larger number were concentrated in Detroit.
Fortunately, the Republican Secretary of State in Michigan, Ruth Johnson, ordered an audit of the votes in Detroit. For the most concerning issue, missing ballots, investigators determined that most of the precincts with ballots missing from their sealed containers had simply left them in the tray of their tabulating machines. When tabulators were returned to the central warehouse for maintenance and storage, the ballots were discovered, secured, and eventually returned.
Overall, the audit report found no evidence of wide-scale fraud. It did find low levels of fraud; thirty-one people were referred for prosecution for double voting out of just the one hundred and thirty-six precincts reviewed. There could have been hundreds across Michigan as a whole. Contrary to what pundits say, vote fraud of this sort surfaces quite a bit. The Heritage Foundation (admittedly partisan, but the cases cited can be easily Googled) cites roughly a thousand convictions for this kind of fraud in the last decades. Increasing mail-in balloting increases the likelihood.
Nevertheless, even if there were a couple of hundred double votes across Michigan in 2016, the results would have stayed the same with a spread of 10,000 votes. In 2020, with 150K separating the candidates, there is zero chance that the low-grade fraud associated with our election system had a meaningful difference.
By the numbers
Another argument points out how it’s suspicious that Trump gained in every metro area except Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. These cities in pivotal states were major contributors to Trump’s loss. So how do the numbers stack up?
In 2016, Clinton won Wayne County, which includes Detroit and Dearborn as well as a number of other smaller towns with 519K votes to Trump’s 229K votes. In 2020, Biden won with 597K votes to Trump’s 265K. Biden picked up 78K votes in Wayne county over 2016, but Trump also picked up 36K votes. On a percentage basis, Trump picked up about a half a point and Biden picked up two points, with no third-party candidates scoring significant votes this year.
Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate and didn’t do much campaigning in the Great Lakes states that she lost. It should have been no great surprise that minority turnout in the big cities suffered. With an affable candidate and a four-year media drumbeat branding Trump as a racist, it’s also no surprise that in a high turnout election Biden gained some ground in Wayne county, with not only a large black population but a large Muslim population.
All in all, the numbers out of Wayne County look reasonable. Certainly, it’s unlikely that there were hundreds of thousands of faked ballots or votes. It’s inconceivable to some that Republicans that their party won statehouses and seats in Congress yet lost the top slot. In 2016 it was equally inconceivable that minority turnout had suffered in the cities to Clinton’s detriment, and some people blamed the voting machines.
Biden’s Wayne County uptick is far less surprising than Republicans gaining hundreds of thousands of votes on the Democrats in Dade County, Florida. The only difference is that big-city political machines tend to be run by Democrats. Republican upsets are thus always virtuous, and Democrat upsets are suspect.
Trump’s lack of endgame
The solid-looking vote in Michigan doesn’t, of course, guarantee that the vote in other states couldn’t be overturned. It’s always possible that Trump could draw an inside straight and overturn enough state elections to throw the issue into the House of Representatives, but it’s a one in a million shot at this point.
So why are media hacks clutching their pearls about Trump’s court challenges? “He’s trying to delegitimize the elections!” “Democracy is in DANGER!” Piffle.
It’s a fair point that half or more of Trump voters think the election was rigged. Perhaps Democrats have reflected on their unhinged position that George W. Bush was an illegitimate President. Maybe they don’t want Republicans to go through the same two decades of poisonous self-delusion from which Democrats seem to have finally emerged. Maybe they regret the needless rancor and don’t want to see their friends across the aisle put themselves through the trauma.
If that’s the case, however, shutting down debate and having the Big Tech goons at Twitter slap ‘liar’ labels on every conservative who even raises questions will not tamp down suspicion. The media has beclowned itself for four years touting Russia conspiracies and all manner of other scandals with unnamed sources which later prove false. When CNN says ‘nothing to see here,’ Republicans have every reason to dig deeper.
The only solution is to let the legal challenges play out in court and do the recounts when requested. The media should support a full investigation of every challenge. The only way to convince the majority of Trump voters is to stop making it look like there’s a coverup.
Brian E. Wish works as a quality engineer in the aerospace industry. He has spent 29 years active and reserve in the US Air Force, where he holds the rank of Colonel. He has a bachelor’s from the US Air Force Academy, a master’s from Bowie State, and a Ph.D. in Public and Urban Administration from UT Arlington. The opinions expressed here are his own. Learn more at brianewish.com.