Wayne County Board of Canvassers, from left, Republican member William Hartmann. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News via AP)
A Michigan election official who bought into election conspiracies and temporarily refused to certify President Joe Biden’s win last November, died of COVID-19. It’s unclear if he was vaccinated, but he repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus and compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.William Hartmann, one of two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, died at the age of 63 on November 30, the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month. Hartmann’s sister said in a mid-November Facebook post that he was “in ICU with COVID pneumonia and currently on a ventilator,” according to the Free Press.
Hartmann will be remembered for his vote last year holding up the certification of the election results in the state’s largest county. Hartmann and fellow GOP Canvasser Monica Palmer initially refused to certify the vote in heavily Democratic Wayne County over small inconsistencies between vote totals and the number of voters in that district that are frequently common, particularly in a large area like Detroit. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said at the time that in his city, the discrepancies involved 357 votes. Biden defeated Trump by more than 150,000 votes statewide. "99.9% was done correctly," Duggan said.Before the vote, Hartmann posted conspiracy theories and spurious allegations about the election being rigged against Trump, according to the New York Times. Old social media posts uncovered last November also showed Hartmann referring to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim President.” Because Michigan election law requires equal representation from both Democrats and Republicans on the board, the initial vote was deadlocked 2-2, throwing the process into chaos. The two were excoriated by Wayne County residents at a public meeting, and Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes referred to the vote as “blatant racism.”
Hartmann and Palmer ultimately voted to certify the results, but later—after Trump called Hartmann and Palmer—signed affidavits attempting to rescind their votes. The effort did not work, Wayne County’s election was certified, and Biden won the election. "What I appreciate about Bill is he did his best to understand the situations, to follow the law and do the best he could and he was always very forward with his thoughts,” Palmer told the Free Press. “We didn't always agree, but I knew where he stood and I could have a conversation with him, and even if we didn't agree, we still had a good relationship."Since last year, Hartmann used his personal Facebook page to post memes questioning the spread of COVID-19 and criticize incentives to get vaccinated, according to the Free Press. "If the ouchie is so great, why do they have to offer bribes?" Hartmann reportedly said in one post. To date, COVID-19 has killed nearly 800,000 Americans including more than 26,000 Michiganders. Michigan is currently experiencing its worst wave of cases and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.