Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield referenced the possibility of a “constitutional crisis” during an interview on Fox News Sunday morning, two days after he huddled with President Donald Trump at the White House.
The Board of State Canvassers meets Monday to consider certifying Michigan’s statewide election results, including President-elect Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. But top Republican Party leaders have asked the board to delay certification in a bid to investigate “anomalies and irregularities” they claimoccurred on Nov. 3.
The board features two Republicans and two Democrats. Many legal experts believe the panel has a duty, under Michigan law, to certify the results Monday.
“If there were to be a 2-2 split on the State Board of Canvassers, it would then go to the Michigan Supreme Court to determine what their response would be, what their order would be,” Chatfield, R-Levering said on “Fox & Friends” Sunday. “If they didn’t have an order that it be certified, well now we have a constitutional crisis in the state of Michigan. It’s never occurred before.”
But as Rick Pildes explained in the NYT:
The Biden campaign and Michigan voters would likely first turn to the state or federal courts. A court would likely issue an order to the state board to certify the result — legally, this is known as issuing a writ of mandamus — because the board’s legal duty is clear and unequivocal once it has received the certified vote totals from the counties. If the resistant board members were still willing to defy the court and go to jail (presidential pardons do not apply to state crimes), a court could also issue the certification itself.
Michigan’s governor also has legal powers she could invoke, though whether she would choose to do so would involve complex political judgments. Under the state’s Constitution, she has the power — the Constitution, actually, calls it a duty — to remove or suspend from office a canvassing board member for “gross neglect of duty,” “corrupt conduct” or “for any other misfeasance or malfeasance” in carrying out their duties. Failing to certify on the facts in Michigan would easily meet this standard.