Delta County situation a stress-test for November elections

Our guardrails worked, but we need to make sure we reinforce them this August and November

By Shannon Abbott

In life, we’re well accustomed to signals warning of danger. We put fire alarms in schools and public buildings, and we train on what to do in case of a fire.

We have tornado sirens, we get phone calls, texts and messages on TVs in case of severe weather and – we have a lot of education of what to do in case of a weather emergency. When we prepare our plans for emergencies, it’s called a stress test to see if the plans work.

So when two canvassers in Delta County refused to certify their May 7 local elections based on pure disinformation, it was a warning to all who care about democracy about what is coming this November. Would our processes and preparations hold up under the stress?

Thankfully, Michigan voters have made their stance clear – they won’t tolerate this behavior when it comes to our democracy. That’s because under voter-enacted changes, no election will go uncertified. If bad actors want to delay, the state will step in to certify.

These guardrails were set up because we know that Michigan elections are safe, secure, and accurate and we must protect that. Michiganders know you can’t delay the certification of an election because your candidate of choice isn’t the winner. That’s not how elections work. That’s not how the law works — but that’s not going to stop bad actors like those in Delta County from trying.

On a second vote, the Delta County canvassers certified their election after a warning from the state. Which may make you wonder, if the system worked in Delta County, what’s the problem?

Public polling shows that this November, the top of the ballot for president, U.S. Senate and several Congressional races will be close contests. Historically, that’s been true of our elections – they are close. Having our potential elected officials work hard for our votes is a good thing.

So when the stakes are higher, what happens when a single county becomes multiple counties in November? What happens when multiple threats from the state produce no movement in these counties? What happens then the disinformation machine comes in full force to our state, and the multiple day wait turns the temperature up?

We handled the first stress test because we prepared for it. Local elected officials of both parties called out the bad actors, the state warned the bad actors of the cost of their actions, and the elections weren’t close enough for anyone to truly believe the disinformation.

So let this be a message to those who try to spread disinformation in future elections – it won’t work. You’ll cost your local community dearly, and the result of the election won’t change.

Our guardrails worked, but we need to make sure we reinforce them this August and November. Common Cause will once again run the nation’s largest nonpartisan election protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE). Visit to sign up to join us in making sure every voter—Democrat, Republican, or Independent— can fairly cast a ballot.

Our state, both the voters and our local and state elected officials have taken a stand to protect our democracy. We passed the first test – let’s make sure we’re ready for the bigger storms to come.

Shannon Abbott is the Outreach and Engagement Organizer for Common Cause Michigan. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.