Sunday, November 29, 2020

GOP poll watcher alleges ballot misconduct at TCF Center in Detroit

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A chaotic scene erupted outside the vote tally room at TCF Center in Detroit as election officials informed dozens of challengers that they could not reenter the room due to it being over-capacity.

Wochit

LANSING — A lawyer who worked Tuesday’s election as a Republican poll challenger is alleging ballot counting misconduct in Detroit, based on an interaction she said she had with an election worker at TCF Center, the location in the city where absentee ballots were counted. 

The allegation was filed Thursday in support of the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Michigan. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Michigan Court of Claims, sought to temporarily stop the counting of votes in the state.

But at a hearing Thursday, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens said the affidavit amounted to hearsay and questioned how it was relevant to the relief the Trump campaign was seeking, which related to access to ballot counting for poll watchers and a request to view videotape surveillance of ballot drop boxes installed around the state after Oct. 1.

Stephens denied those requests, saying Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson already issued a directive about access for poll watchers in a separate recent court case, the ballot counting is already finished, and that there is no legal basis for Benson to provide, or be expected to provide, access to video surveillance of ballot drop boxes installed by local election officials.

The judge ruled from the bench but said a written order dismissing the case would follow, likely on Friday.

In the affidavit, Jessica Connarn, a member of the state bar from Bloomfield Hills, alleges she was told by someone counting absentee ballots in Detroit that workers were “changing the dates the ballots were received.” 

“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.

Benson said Wednesday night: “In Michigan, I am proud to confirm that all valid ballots, and only valid ballots, have been counted, securely and accurately, and that our election results reflect the will of the people.”

In a response to the suit Thursday, assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast said the case should be dismissed, which is how Stephens ultimately ruled.

“Plaintiffs attempt to ‘unring’ a bell in this case,” Meingast said in a court filing. “They ask this court to halt the counting and processing of absent voter ballots throughout the state of Michigan. But the tally of unofficial county results is complete.”

Meingast said the “vague legal claims and nonexistent facts hold no water and should be dismissed.”

Unofficial vote totals show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden received roughly 150,000 more votes than President Donald Trump in Michigan. 

More: Michigan is done counting ballots. Now the process of certifying them begins

More: Chaos erupts at TCF Center as Republican vote challengers cry foul in Detroit

Connarn says in the affidavit that 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. 

Connarn included a picture of the note in her affidavit. There is no additional evidence provided that would indicate any ballots were actually inappropriately counted, and the name of the poll worker is not included. 

In Wayne County, a traditional Democratic stronghold, Biden received 587,074 votes. Trump received 264,149 votes. 

Contact Dave Boucher at dboucher@freepress.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

Read or Share this story: https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/11/05/poll-watcher-challenger-ballot-counting-detroit-tcf-center/6172210002/

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