Tanzina: On Wednesday, the Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner in Michigan, granting the Democratic front runner an additional 16 electoral votes, but that didn't stop a group of protesters, many of them white Trump supporters, from gathering outside of a polling place in Detroit and banging on doors and windows to stop votes from being counted.
Tanzina: The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to halt the absentee vote-counting process, claiming that members of the campaign didn't have, "meaningful access to observe the ballot counting." It's unclear at the moment how consequential that lawsuit will be in Michigan's final results. Joining me now to discuss where things are in Michigan is Zoe Clark, program director for Michigan Radio and co-host of the show It's Just Politics. Zoe, thanks for being with me.
Zoe: Hey, thanks so much for having me.
Tanzina: How did Biden's campaign approach campaigning in Michigan compared to say Hillary Clinton in 2016?
Zoe: It was really all about turnout, turnout, turnout. It's historically accurate that here in Michigan when more voters turnout, Democrats win. That was part of the issue with Hillary Clinton in 2016. As I've said often before, it's not so much that Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 but Hillary Clinton lost Michigan four years ago. Biden was able to bring back some of that Barrack Obama coalition that won the state in 2008 and in 2012.
Tanzina: It isn't lost on me that the protesters who surrounded the polling place last night in Detroit were largely white. Detroit is a largely Black city. What was Black voter turnout like this year?
Zoe: Higher than it was four years ago. Then that is an indication of just how important Wayne County, the county in which Detroit is, was for Biden. What happened four years ago is that some 40,000 did not turn out in that area. What we saw was voter turnout at some historic levels. We've heard from the city that they're estimating that it was between 53% and 55% turnout which would be close to what President Obama got in '08.
Comparatively, this outstate rural voters who turned up in 2016, what we're still digging into is it looks like the same number of Trump supporters stepped up again this year. It's just that more folks who are voting for Biden came out than they had four years ago.
Tanzina: One of the most interesting things about this election is that people have been mobilized on both sides of the political divide here to come out and vote. We mentioned that the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit to halt the absentee ballot-counting process and there are also protests from Trump supporters about stopping the count. Where do those stand?
Zoe: Right. A lawsuit had been filed and has been filed in the Court of Claims here in Michigan. It's likely that a judge is going to try to get through this case as soon as possible, so we don't expect a lot of waiting. Look, the Secretary of State of Michigan came out yesterday and said this was a frivolous lawsuit. I can tell you that Michigan Radio had folks at TCF Center in Detroit. I'm going to quote our Michigan Radio reporter, Dustin Dwyer, who's in Grand Rapids, that's on the west side of the state, and he said, "I was literally just in a room in Michigan where more than 59,000 absentee ballots are being tabulated." He says there are republican challengers in the room, fully active in the process. The county clerk overseeing it all is a Republican who said in 2018, she supports Trump's policies. I think in the end, unless there is some evidence or actual something that we can see, I haven't seen any instances of voter fraud or anything like that in the state over the past 48 hours.
Tanzina: Zoe, we want to also get a sense of what's playing out when it comes to protesters and people who are looking to stop the count. What's the mood been on the ground?
Zoe: There were a group of folks who it appears Republican in Michigan had called out to go to the TCF Center. It appeared that maybe they got some inaccurate information that Republicans were not being let into the TCF Center. Again, that is not accurate. There were reporters there counting how many folks, whether it be poll watchers or challengers were there. Misinformation is just that. Some folks were there and what was happening is the security outside of TCF Center we're not letting folks in because of COVID restrictions.
As we are still in the middle of this historic pandemic, there were only so many people that were allowed in this very large room and there were hundreds of people in this room already. These folks weren't allowed in and one of the issues that sparked some of these so-called demonstrations was that there were members of the media who were being let in to watch and document what was going on. Some of these Republican protesters were saying, "Hey, look, talk to me about the number of restrictions and folks that are in there, because you just let them and but you won't let us in."
There was some talk while there was a certain number of media that they were already accounting for that was allowed. It turned into a situation, as we heard, that folks were chanting, some pounding on the walls, but overall the police security was able to tamp things down. Did it get heated? Yes, but it did not get to a point where the demonstrations got violent, but there was definitely yelling by Republicans but overall, things went off without a hitch.
Tanzina: Democrats were not able to flip the state legislature in Michigan this year, how is it that they fell short, despite the fact that Biden has had success in that state?
Zoe: I pushed back about the falling short. I think what it was is that across the country, there were some expectations because of some polls, and I'm sure we'll all be discussing this yet again, for the next four years. This showed there was going to be this blue wave, this historic Biden's sweep that down-ballot would help democrats. Folks were saying, "If Biden gets five, six, seven, eight points extra here in Michigan, that'll help down-ballot." It doesn't appear that was the case, it looks like it's going to end up being closer to two or three points.
Down-ballot, it didn't do as much in statehouse races, but I want to note a lot of that here in Michigan has to do with the way that are both congressional and our statehouse and state senate maps are drawn. Interestingly enough, two years ago, voters approved basically an independent commission who will take up maps because folks in Michigan said, "Look, maps are gerrymandered and we want change." Statewide, more democrats voted for Biden but lower down in the ticket that did not appear to happen in the statehouse. Michigan will go forward with a democratic governor and Gretchen Whitmer, and a Republican-controlled house and senate both chambers for the next two years.
Tanzian: There's also a very close Senate race in Michigan between the incumbent Democrat, Gary Peters and John James. Were you surprised at how that race turned out to be so close?
Zoe: No, in fact, in one respect that the polls were accurate was that this was likely going to be a close race. Gary Peters, he was a Democrat who has been considered a moderate Democrat. This was his first re-election campaign. He won the first time six years ago. We all knew it was going to be closed because John James, who is a republican rising star, who was running against him, had run in Michigan in a US Senate race against sitting Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow two years ago. John James had really high name recognition for a candidate because folks knew him from two years ago.
There was also some question that I'll be interested in as we dig into the votes a little more. Were there ticket splitters? Were there folks who might be Republican who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump, maybe even voted for Biden instead but decided, I'm going to even out my ballot and vote for John James as sending a Republican to DC. In the end, Gary Peters did win and a lot of that again, has to do with the Democratic turnout here in Michigan.
Tanzina: Zoe Clark is the program director for Michigan Radio. Zoe thanks so much.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.