Advocates Sound Alarm Over Absentee Ballot Signature Verifications in Michigan

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Election integrity advocates believe something fishy is going on in Wayne County with absentee ballots, and they say Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is undermining the security of the process there and across Michigan.

Glen Sitek of the Election Integrity Fund provided an exclusive statement to The Michigan Star.

The Oakland County resident said:

Our organization contacted The Amistad Project at the Thomas More Society about possible litigation. Now we learn of about the abundant problems in the Wayne County primary as well. The Secretary of State process to verify the signatures by comparison to the Voters Rolls failed which further exacerbated the situation. It could have been much worse except for the citizenry working the polls that reported and objected to it.

We are obligated to correct this debacle to assure good citizens the process will be secure and let them know that their vote will count. To this end we will pursue by all means to expose and help correct the problems witnessed. We will have more to add Monday when next we meet.

Sitek was referring to a big announcement that the Election Integrity Fund and The Amistad Project at the Thomas More Society will make Monday, said The Amistad Project’s director, Phill Kline.

The Election Integrity Fund told the law center that the secretary of state was using COVID-19 emergency orders to sidestep state laws protecting ballots, he said. So, The Amistad Project began investigating. They learned that the secretary had greatly increased the use of absentee ballots through various measures and diminished the number of in-person voting centers, yet has not taken any steps to ensure the integrity of absentee ballots is protected, Kline said.

He said he wanted to point out that absentee ballots are a valid way to vote and The Amistad Project does not oppose their use. But, the concern is when a ballot leaves election officials’ control and you cannot ensure the voter is not intimidated or coerced. Nor can you see if the intended voter is the one casting the ballot.

Therefore, signature verification is required, Kline said. Benson is undermining that requirement in several ways, he said, and added his organization has talked to local clerks. She is not providing training for local election clerks on how to verify signatures. She does not have a method to verify. She has told the public that Michigan has software to verify signatures, but again, local clerks say that is not true.

Kline pointed to a comment that Benson made June 30 on “The Frank Beckmann Show,” claiming that the state has the sophisticated software to verify signatures.

On the clip, Beckmann said that Susan McCullough, Oakland Township deputy clerk, refuted Benson’s claim.

State Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), the former Michigan Secretary of State, posted that clip on her public Facebook page, available here. She was interviewed in the segment about the state not having the software and of a lack of training for clerks.

 

Johnson posted, “Thank you to WJR Radio and The Frank Beckmann Show for setting the record straight! Despite claims by the Secretary of State on your program last week, we’ve learned no Michigan clerk has actually been provided signature verification tool.”

The Election Integrity Fund and The Amistad Project are raising the alarm about another absentee ballot issue. They pointed to an election challenger’s observations.

Bob Cushman worked as an election challenger for the Michigan Republican Party at the TCF Center absentee voter counting board at 1 Washington Blvd. in Detroit during the Aug. 4 election. He said he was present from about 6:50 a.m. Aug. 4 until about 5:10 a.m. Aug. 5.

He signed an affidavit saying there were numerous poll books missing for ballots. He said he and others mentioned that issue to election officials, one of whom said that the ballots that had been sorted would not be processed until poll books were available. He said that later in the process, workers were told to stop comparing absentee ballots to poll book lists and not verify signatures.

The problems continued in the early morning hours of August 5:

An announcement was made at 0037 that chastised all the workers that were and had been leaving early. The threat was made that the $100.00 bonus that had been promised earlier (over the PA) would not be paid.

At approximately 2 A.M. on August 5, 2020, a soft male voice, from the PA system, instructed everyone to stop what they are doing, open every envelope, separate the ballots, and place them into the trays to go to the tabulators.

Immediately thereafter, a second firmer, louder (different) male voice over the PA system repeated the instructions.

During the time of the above two announcements, a statement was made over the PA system that “we” could either finish in one hour or a couple or three more hours. I do not remember which of the two male announcers made this comment.

About 20 minutes after the announcements, I walked around the TCF Center and noted that there were no more comparisons being made to the pollbooks at any of the tables that I observed. I continued to make round of the floor with the same observations.

After the announcements around 2 A.M., the election inspectors were opening all of the ballots as quickly as possible and preparing them for immediate tabulation without additional processing or notation.

At approximately 5:10 A.M. on August 5, 2020, I spoke with Mr. Hagood. He informed me that there was no simple print out of the totals that I could obtain, but he noted that about 76,000 ballots had been processed in total.

Kline said his team has been in contact with other local election officials who are willing to sign affidavits about election problems.

In addition to the breaking news coming Monday, the Amistad Project at The Thomas More Society on Monday will launch a new website, which will be available here. The site will highlight all of the law center’s work in Michigan and other states.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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