On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it was filing a lawsuit in Michigan over what it claims are systematic efforts to prevent Republican election observers from monitoring the ballot counting process as allowed under state law. The lawsuit comes as video clips continue to surface on social media showing election officials denying access to authorized GOP poll watchers.
Aric Nesbitt, a Michigan state senator, posted a video on Twitter Wednesday afternoon of election workers at the convention center in Detroit, where absentee ballots are being counted. The video shows workers cheering every time an official election observer with the Michigan GOP is ejected from the counting room. Apparently this has been happening frequently, in violation of state law. Democratic observers, says Nesbitt, now outnumber Republicans observers at the convention center 3 to 1.
Here’s why that’s a problem. When an absentee ballot is unreadable for whatever reason, a ballot counter takes out a blank ballot, lays it on the table next to the unreadable ballot, and transposes the vote so it can be filed and tallied. Republican and Democratic “poll challengers,” as they’re called, are supposed to observe this process as it happens and make sure that the vote is transposed accurately. In addition, Michigan state law requires that a Republican and a Democratic official sign off on every voting precinct where absentee ballots are cast in this manner.
Phill Kline is a former Kansas attorney general and now an attorney for the nonprofit Amistad Project, which filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that tens of thousands of ballots in Detroit have been illegally filled out by election officials and Democratic election observers. “We have confirmed evidence that Democratic election officials have violated state law,” he told The Federalist, “and have opened the door for fraud involving tens of thousands of ballots.”
Kline confirmed Republican officials have been barred from observing the counting of absentee ballots, and that transposed absentee ballots are being certified without a GOP official signing off on them. The law, Kline says, states that an official from both parties must sign off “if possible,” and that Democratic election officials are claiming they can’t find a Republican to sign off—even though they are also kicking Republican officials out of the counting rooms.
I also spoke by phone to one GOP poll challenger who asked to remain anonymous and told me the election officials at the convention center are not letting Republican poll challengers remain in the room where absentee ballots are being counted, saying there’s “too many” of them. Asked how many people were in these rooms, the officials in charge could not say, according to this person, who added that the rooms in question are enormous, the size of a football field (remember this is at the convention center, where the Detroit auto show is held).
After kicking out Republican poll challengers, election officials began covering up the windows of the counting rooms with cardboard to block the view of Republican observers. “It was pretty chaotic,” the poll challenger said.
News reports are starting to reflect the chaos at the convention center. The Detroit Free Press reported Thursday morning that a lawyer, Jessica Connarn, who was working as a Republic poll challenger, filed an affidavit saying she was told by someone counting absentee ballots that workers in Detroit were “changing the dates the ballots were received” so they would be considered valid.
“When I approached the poll worker, she stated to me that she was being told to change the date on ballots to reflect that the ballots were received on an earlier date,” Connarn says in the affidavit. The Free Press goes on to report:
Connarn states when she tried to get additional information later from this poll worker, she was “yelled at by the other poll workers working at her table, who told me that I needed to go away and that I was not allowed to talk to the poll worker.”
In that interaction, the poll worker slipped Connarn a note, she states.
The note says “entered received date as 11/2/20 on 11/4/20.”
In Michigan, only ballots received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, this year Nov. 3, are valid.
No One Should Trust The Election Process In Detroit
None of this is new for Detroit, which has been plagued by corrupt election officials for years. In 2005, federal officials launched an investigation after the November election and state officials took over the handling of absentee ballots in Detroit after the Detroit News reported that “legally incapacitated nursing home residents were being coaxed to vote and Detroit’s voting rolls were inflated with more than 300,000 names of people who had died or moved out of the city.” A post-election audit found that nearly 30 percent of precincts showed discrepancies in vote totals.
Despite reform efforts over the years, these problems have persisted. Back in December, a public interest group sued the city in federal court, claiming its voter rolls are “replete with typos, dead people, duplicate registrations and mistakes about gender and birth: One Detroit voter is listed as being born in 1823—14 years before Michigan was annexed into the Union,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
In the 2016 presidential election, voting machines in more than a third of all voting precincts in Detroit registered more votes than the number of voters tallied by poll workers. The irregularities meant that more than half the city would be ineligible for a statewide presidential recount that was eventually called off by the Michigan Supreme Court. Here’s what Detroit News reported at the time:
Overall, state records show 10.6 percent of the precincts in the 22 counties that began the re-tabulation process couldn’t be recounted because of state law that bars recounts for unbalanced precincts or ones with broken seals.
The problems were the worst in Detroit, where discrepancies meant officials couldn’t recount votes in 392 precincts, or nearly 60 percent. And two-thirds of those precincts had too many votes.
But these problems persisted. In the August primary, ballot counts in 72 percent of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, and in 46 percent of the city’s precincts the combined vote counts for Election Day and absentee voting were out of balance. Even Democratic election officials admitted that something had gone wrong in tracking ballots by precinct.
According to Michigan state law, precincts whose poll books don’t match up with the number of ballots cast can’t be recounted. That might present problems for any eventual presidential recount in the state, as it did in 2016.
For now, it seems clear that credible evidence of election fraud has surfaced in Detroit, which is not surprising given Detroit’s troubled history of election fraud. But it’s also deeply disturbing. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit to halt what appears to be a corrupt process is, in this case, entirely appropriate. We need to get to the bottom of what’s going on in Detroit.