I Was a Detroit Poll Challenger. The GOP Came to Make Havoc.Roundup
tags: Michigan, 2020 Election, Poll watchers
Danielle McGuire is a metro Detroit award-winning historian and author of At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance–a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power.
On Election Day, I was one of the hundreds of credentialed “challengers” at the Absent Voter Counting Board in the TCF Center in Detroit. I volunteered with the Democratic Party of Michigan, completed two training sessions and was excited to help protect the integrity of the election, the ballots and the dignity of the workers.
What I saw was democracy in action, ordinary Americans working hard to count hundreds of thousands of ballots. It was a process so layered with checks, balances and hundreds of observers that fraud was nearly impossible.
But what my fellow challengers saw was conspiracy and fraud. That’s because they are Republicans and came determined to find it even if it wasn’t there.
I came to the dispiriting conclusion after a morning that began with the same calm anticipation as a wedding day. I arrived at TCF at 6:30 a.m., was screened for COVID-19 and directed to the basement ballroom. Once inside, we were not allowed to leave until after 8 p.m.
The room was bright and bustling. Already in place were ballot inspectors, supervisors, team leaders, and election officials. You could easily identify them by their uniforms (white shirts for inspectors; black shirts for team leaders).
I was assigned to a row of five counting boards, which consisted of four long tables pushed together into a big rectangle. Each counting board had about four or five inspectors and a supervisor. As the inspectors waited for the counting to begin, I introduced myself to each group in my row and told them I was there to observe and not hinder the process. It was about 7 a.m. and everyone was eager to get counting.
Shortly after I arrived, a group of five GOP challengers arrived in my area of the ballroom. They came with clipboards, coolers, unofficial printouts from the GOP about what to scrutinize and an air of suspicion.
They said hello, but then immediately began asking questions. They wanted the names of inspectors, where they lived and questioned how ballots are processed. When an inspector’s answer about processes differed from what the GOP-provided printouts said, one challenger began to cause a disruption.
She suggested inspectors were poorly trained, misinformed and would cause fraudulent totals. She and the GOP challengers in my row, all middle-age suburban women, began suggesting the entire process was suspect.
The counting hadn’t even started yet; the ballots hadn’t yet arrived at the counting boards and already it was clear that the GOP challengers were there to sow confusion and suspicion.
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