First Person | I was a Detroit poll challenger. The GOP came to make havoc.

Bridge Michigan solicited and is publishing stories from poll workers and watchers of both major political parties.

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.

daneille mcguire

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.”

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. 

One poll inspector pulled me aside and told me she wanted to do her job with precision, but felt nervous about GOP challengers asking personal questions and quizzing her.  It was intimidating, she said. I advised her to let her supervisor know. The rules were clear: challengers were not allowed to speak with inspectors, only supervisors. 

Already the GOP challengers were breaking the rules.

Before the ballots were delivered to each counting board, the tabulators had to post “zero tapes” showing that no ballots had been scanned and processed and we were all starting at the beginning. These “zero tapes” are signed by multiple witnesses and taped to the wall near counting boards. Almost immediately, the GOP challengers in my section raised questions when the “zero tapes” did not match numbers on computers at each counting board table. They began badgering inspectors, asking for supervisors, insisting the mismatched numbers were signs of secret ballot counting the day before. 

Their confusion and concern reached a fever pitch just before a team leader explained to them that the computers were essentially electronic poll books — they contained lists of registered voters in that particular precinct so that inspectors could scan absentee ballots and cross-check the voter’s information. 

It was a system designed to prevent fraud and human errors, not manufacture them. The numbers of voters in each precinct on the computers and had no relationship whatsoever to the tabulators (essentially the ballot scanners), which had to show “zero” ballots scanned in order to start counting for the day.

It was something to behold: GOP challengers were literally mistaking their own uncertainty or lack of knowledge about the process with voter fraud and worker malfeasance. 

This frantic speculation on the part of GOP challengers continued throughout the day, whenever there was a mismatched number, a processing error, a human mistake, or anything that they didn’t understand. Even though each and every item was rectified and explained, to the GOP challengers everything was part of a grand conspiracy. 

One GOP challenger even told me that poll workers, who were almost entirely African American at the TCF center, shouldn’t be paid. 

“I volunteered,” she said. “Why can’t they?” 

That whiff of white entitlement/superiority was evident in the way they behaved toward inspectors and supervisors throughout the day.

It became clear as the morning progressed that we saw our job as challengers quite differently. I was there to ensure a smooth process and make sure every vote was counted. They were there to gum up the process by questioning everything and anything.

It was sad, really. They distrusted their fellow citizens and thought the entire process was skeptical. When you begin with the assumption that there is widespread voter fraud, you see everything—normal processes and explainable errors—as part of a widespread criminal conspiracy.  

By late morning, the GOP challengers in my section had to be repeatedly asked by supervisors and team leaders to follow the rules: do not speak with inspectors, only supervisors; stay back 6 feet from the table to maintain social distancing requirements; and wear your mask over your nose and mouth. 

Some abided by the rules and many did not. In fact, these requests apparently offended the GOP challengers so much they began filling out affidavits suggesting inspectors and supervisors treated them rudely and disrespectfully.

As the day wore on and the imagined voter fraud failed to materialize, the GOP challengers became obsessed with finding “the military ballots.” 

At one point after lunch, a woman with the GOP suggested that a box of ballots had been taken from the tabulator area and was being moved back to the precinct. A group of GOP challengers ran after the team leader carrying a box back to a counting board. They surrounded him and demanded he open it, certain they had nabbed a fraudster. He was unbothered, opened the box and let everyone look inside. It was empty. He had dropped off ballots that were ready to be processed at the tabulator area and was going to the precinct to pick up more.

By the end of the night, the GOP challengers were left with nothing but the majesty of democracy: ordinary people working as a group to uphold the integrity of our election. It is not perfect, but it is pretty darn close. 

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Comments

Jennie B
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 2:30pm

Thank you for your service and firsthand account. We need to put country above party.

MK
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 2:37pm

My fear is that someone like you will be harassed for doing us all a public service. It's very difficult to confront Republicans because they go after people and their families.

Joe
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 4:45pm

Sorry darling. It’s antifa and BLM to go after people in their families. Have you missed the news or do you just watch CNN and ABC?

bob
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 6:03pm

"Sorry darling"? "It's to go after people in their families"?
Tips for modern living: don't be snide; follow basic rules of language.

Becky
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 10:17pm

Well, that's an interesting comment, coming after days of watching leftist democrats threatening families with young and terrified children in tow at the trump rally in DC, reducing them to crying! When have you ever seen a conservative do anything like that??Never, is when!

Becky
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 4:03am

'they go after people and their families'??? Please describe whenever the republicans did anything like 'going after their families', such as the dems did at the recent trump rally in DC, threatening families with kids in tow and making the kids cry,, and beating up others. Are you kidding me??! Whenever were you last fearful of a republican 'coming after you'. it's only democrat leftists who are known to do that!

Abe Bubush
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 4:06pm

Thank you for your civic duty.

Agnosticrat
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 5:56pm

Thank you for your service!

E m
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 6:07pm

This site is supposed to be nonpartisan . I don’t appreciate reading stories like this on here . Will stop donating money to the site if push red or blue agenda .

Joel Kurth
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 9:01pm

To be clear, we solicited accounts from Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan poll challengers, all of which are on the site and can be accessed from this article.

Jake
Sun, 11/08/2020 - 7:45am

Saying "to be clear" means nothing, it actually indicates that the person saying that is intending to be anything BUT clear.

You did have accounts from at least two people, one Republican and one Democrat. Both of whom were apparently in the same room but saw totally different things, which you did do an article on. Probably due to seeing what they wanted to see. I'll take each account with more than a grain of skepticism though. We don't get to see who you solicited accounts from, we can only see what you publish. I didn't see an account from a non-partisan, granted I could have missed it, but I didn't see it.

Being a degree or so less partisan than the most radical factions of your side, however, doesn't mean you're non-partisan, it just means you're not as radical and slightly more objective. There is a distinctly liberal bias on this site, both in the types of articles you publish and in the way you present them, the words you use, the tone of the articles.

julie perry
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 3:12am

Funny how just because this article doesn't fit your own bias you cry foul. There have been PLENTY of people who witnessed exactly what this woman did - and spoke out about it. Republicans and dems alike.
I guess you don't like it because this article didn't repeat the RW lies that there were an uneven number of watchers, that Repubs weren't allowed in, that the processors were changing ballots and that a van pulled up at 4am with a bunch of ballots............ I guess you prefer fake news.

.

Michael W.
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 10:55pm

How are you so confused about the concept of opinion pieces?

anonymous
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 10:46am

Sure you did...but you buried it.

You have to thumb through the democratic opinion article to click on a link to find the Republicans opinion. I wouldn't have even noticed the link to the republican opinion piece had you not mentioned it here in the comments. In the meantime, the democrat opinion piece gets placed front in center.

I bet more ppl read & click on the democratic piece bc of its placement, & therefore, it's not balanced.

If you were really fair, it'd have equal placement. Let your readers choose instead of leading them.

THIS is the problem w/media these days. Theres NO UNBIASED or FAIR media. Media is supposed to be the watchdogs for BOTH parties but it leans either left or right.

Sadly, traditional Media is dead. They r are no longer watchdogs . They are mouthpieces pushing the ideas of whatever side they lean towards while they ignore, silence & disregard any issues within the party they represent.

Then to add fuel to the fire, digital platforms are acting like publishers, changing algorithms to either boost or bury stories...& they happen to greatly favor liberal media so we get fed more of that.

As a result, trust in the media & our government is eroding & media, not politics is the drive in the divide.

Not Karen
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 6:59pm

Oh goodness, a self-proclaimed victim who feels oppressed because they have to read. Due diligence? Personal responsibility? Do you have any? Doesn’t seem like it. You’re literally complaining because you have to look for an article...complaining about having to work for something ha! The irony!

Further, complaining about supposed bias when it’s very evident from your comment how biased you, yourself, are is not the example you want to set. You lose all credibility whining about how nothing is nonpartisan anymore when it’s coming from a stance of extreme partisanship. Dunning-Kruger affect and all that.

sarroth
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 8:37am

The article starts by saying they have pieces from Republicans too. It's not a link, no, but you shouldn't have had to go to the comments to know it existed.

ANITFA BLM SUPPORTER
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 6:45pm

Cry more, you pathetic snowflake. Your candidate lost; Trumpism and its supporters are vile, ignorant bigots. And in the meanwhile -- and in the language of Trump's own campaign: "F**k your feelings".

Bill
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 10:44pm

Nonsense you couldn't be more 1 sided liberal propaganda then this.

Anonymous
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 9:07pm

https://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/26574/mlive_false-balance_headl...

Once upon a different time, political journalists held this truth to be self-evident: Cover "both sides" with careful balance by giving roughly equal space, time and visibility to opposing parties, candidates and views.

Many news professionals and consumers now recognize that as a disservice and an opening for exploitation -- a trap Michigan critics say MLive.com fell into Thursday.

In the Trump era, 'both sides' (or 'bothsidesism') has become shorthand for a journalistic philosophy that many media critics consider to be broken. Its rules, critics say, make things that aren’t the same seem the same, and allow bad actors to launder disinformation.

Democrats, for the most part, are engaging with the factual record; Republicans, for the most part, are not. These positions are manifestly not equivalent. Treating them as such does not serve any useful concept of fairness; instead, it rebounds clearly to the advantage of the one side (Republicans) for whom nonsense being taken seriously is a victory in itself.

If you poke a headline into your browser and infowars pops up? That might not be news.

madmatthew56
Tue, 11/10/2020 - 4:14pm

EXACTLY. Both sides journalism only works when both sides are acting in good faith. The GOP, going all the way back to the Newt Gingrich era, clearly is not acting in good faith, and that trend has reached its nauseating nadir in Trump. If one side tells you that the sky is blue and the other tells you that the sky is plaid, the journalist's job is not to be a stenographer to what both sides say. The journalist's job is to go outside and see what color the sky is.

Pam
Mon, 11/09/2020 - 2:36pm

It's easy to find first hand accounts from those you seek in this news source. You just have to put forward the effort to find them. Pretty easy.

Evel Knievel
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 6:13pm

"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." -- Michigan's NONPARTISAN, nonprofit news source. WHAT A JOKE. Couldn't be more partisan if you tried.

Joel Kurth
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 9:02pm

Bridge solicited commentary and accounts from Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan challengers, all of which are linked to each other for readers to make up their minds.

thanks for reading and your jump over snake canyon. 

KJMC
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 6:40am

OK, *that* was funny!

Michael W.
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 11:04pm

Joel, whatever The Bridge pays you, it's not enough.

julie perry
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 3:17am

Well gee - she has the right to her opinion and offer her take of what she witnessed. I'd say it's MUCH better than the RW media's coverage and reporting claiming the Repubs were locked out of the process and weren't allowed in. lololol

Charlie Day
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 6:18pm

Bridge, please stop publishing this partisan propoganda. Half the state is ready to start shooting and you are only making it worse. Wait for the recount and for ballots to be verified as legal. It's going to take weeks or months.

KJMC
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 6:37am

Well, firearm deer season is only a week and a half away, so half the state probably is ready to start shooting. That's got nothing to do with the election. There's no reason for certifying to take more than a couple of weeks, and it has to be done by December 8th. Trump lost. He had four years. Move on.

Ted
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 4:48pm

You better freaking go through the ballots and make sure all the cheating gets fixed. Y’all are delusional I was down there I saw your cheating.

John Q Public
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 6:06am

There is a big difference between cheating, fraud, and clerical errors. There has been no documented cases of cheating or fraud. There have been some cases of clerical (or human) errors. However, in totality, the results of the election will not change.

Michael W.
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 11:05pm

What is it with Republicans not understanding what an opinion piece is? It's explained right at the top of the article.

Saginaw Dem
Fri, 11/06/2020 - 8:15pm

I'm glad these people came away empty-handed, but it seems like if you got enough chaos agents in one place, you could make it impossible to continue. Imagine a bunch of loudmouth Republican lawyers in that room. Trump encouraged this, and I could see future Repub candidates like Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan using similar tactics.

Jerry Jones
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 10:38am

Thank you for being a poll watcher. What an exhausting and nerve wracking time!

David Frye
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 12:43pm

Thank you for protecting our democracy!

Frequentflyermom
Sun, 11/08/2020 - 7:33am

Thank you for doing this and writing this. It is obvious this country is going to need a lot of healing .

MSJ
Mon, 11/09/2020 - 10:39am

Per Detroit Free Press:
One GOP observer removed for mask infraction, same as DPD Officer standing by her. Why ?
One "GOP" observer ( said he was denied his phone/camera, but someone was filming him??)
who was facially unidentifiable due to wearing a full face mask, was acting like a drunk idiot;
Was he actually a Democrat operative? After reading this article, and listening to the HATE SPEECH on MSNBC from Jennifer Rubin, and AOC, among others, I wouldn't put anything past the Dems. Just what are they planning for anyone disagreeing with them. Is this China, or Russia? This is NOT Democracy in action. This is a Revolt against Democracy and all that we hold dear in America. I weep for the future. God save our Democracy.

Uriel
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 7:38pm

Wait- I see the problem here: You're delusional.

MSJ
Mon, 11/09/2020 - 10:40am

Per Detroit Free Press:
One GOP observer removed for mask infraction, same as DPD Officer standing by her. Why ?
One "GOP" observer ( said he was denied his phone/camera, but someone was filming him??)
who was facially unidentifiable due to wearing a full face mask, was acting like a drunk idiot;
Was he actually a Democrat operative? After reading this article, and listening to the HATE SPEECH on MSNBC from Jennifer Rubin, and AOC, among others, I wouldn't put anything past the Dems. Just what are they planning for anyone disagreeing with them. Is this China, or Russia? This is NOT Democracy in action. This is a Revolt against Democracy and all that we hold dear in America. I weep for the future. God save our Democracy.

Almighty Dollar
Thu, 11/12/2020 - 8:55am

Great article. Pathetic behavior.

ThomD
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 1:16am

It is interesting that this is called pathetic behavior and yet the 30 plus million dollar false Russia Collusion investigation was an exercise in virtue. Strange. No party has a corner on foolishness...just some cost alot more.

Mark
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 9:18am

Did you read the Senate Intelligence Committee bipartisan report on Russia? (The Committee is chaired by a Republican, by the way.)

The report concluded that (1) the Trump Campaign was a severe counterintelligence threat due to its contacts with Russia and (2) the Russia investigations were well-founded. There was no false investigation

Joe
Thu, 11/12/2020 - 10:42pm

They were not there to "gum up the process" But to expose the voter fraud the genuinely believe is taking place. Worlds collide!

Steve F
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 2:31am

This article by a democrat seems anything but non partisan - another liberal rag apparently.

Bill beecham
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 5:54pm

I have access to 234 MICHIGAN affidavits from Republicans claiming fraud. It's laughable, but most importantly it is criminal. Somehow Trump got 234 people to commit perjury. Many of them, from different cities, use the exact same paragraph! They just wrote verbatim what they were told to put in their own words.

There is going to be many, many people recanting when confronted with the fact that they have been told what to say. Multiple people saying, with exact grammar, carbon copies. Filed different days, in different cities.

I'm betting the top sent them a list of phrases to be sure to say in their own words. Only problem is you chose people who brainlessly follow and don't think.

In fact, I may start a lawsuit against each and every one of them for collusion and perjury.

julie perry
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 3:04am

Thank you for taking the time to be involved. I apologize for all the partisan puppets and haters on here. How pathetic they really are.

Arbo1876
Mon, 11/16/2020 - 5:28pm

"It was a system designed to prevent fraud and human errors, not manufacture them."
In another article on this website it is clear that software can not handle human errors at all. Even very basic things went wrong.
But, can you proof your story? Very important these days or not?
I am anti-Trump, do not like Biden, more in favor of a young Sanders-type. Do not live in your country, do live in a social-democracy. But I do have to smile when a non-expert claims the system is designed to prevent fraud and human errors, while another article makes clear it is not.

Matt
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 1:41pm

And good luck with your book! I'll bet you'll sell dozens.

David Domine
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 6:47pm

It's amazing how stupid these right wing "patriots" are.

Dave S.
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 8:33pm

The article is one person's testimony to her experiences as a poll challenger. By definition, it is a subjective opinion but in my (also subjective) opinion, it feels authentic. You don't have to agree with it, you don't even have to read it, but IF you do read it, please try to approach it with an open mind as opposed to being ready to pounce if it doesn't align with your world view. I'm an Independent and have issues with both the Republican and Democratic parties, but I find the level of non-evidence-based arguments by the Republicans, as well as challenges that seem to be lopsidedly targeted at communities of people of color, these days to be concerning. Thank you to all who worked the polls, the well-intentioned poll challengers from both sides, and to all who support and uphold democracy.

Bill
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 10:43pm

This article is complete BS. This is the liberal propaganda that the country now completely hates. "White privilege" right there you know this article is fake. George Soros paid person as nobody can actually believe this crap.

Michael W.
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 11:07pm

Thank you for your service, Ms. McGuire.

Robert Smith
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 10:52am

What a great work of fiction. You deserve some sort of literary award.

Bill Schmidt
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 11:48am

I was at TCF on Wednesday November 4th from 5:55am until 10:05pm.

I was told going in that you can’t leave and expect to get back inside.

I am a lifelong Republican.

What I saw and experienced was ignorance on a large scale. Ignorance is a misunderstood word. Most people equate ignorance with stupidity. Ignorance is not knowing something.

I am ignorant of a million things. So are you.

I am ignorant about the brakes in my truck. I know I have them, I use them, I have had a them repaired, I have even held them in my hands but I would never ride in a truck if I worked on the brakes, because I don’t know what I don’t know and that is ignorance.

Ignorance about how ballots are counted was on full display at the TCF Center. I will give one example that threw folks into paroxysms of confuzzlement:

Ballot numbers.

For example, Bob Smith requests an absentee ballot and it arrives. Bob’s ballot has a number and that number matches the number on the outside of the envelope.
When the poll worker opens the envelope they scan the ballot number and matching Number on the outside of the envelope.

However, Bob lives with Mary Jones and her sons Fred and James Jackson.

When the family filled out their ballots they paid no attention to which ballot went into which envelope.

Hence, ballot numbers/envelope numbers did not match.

Republicans saw a conspiracy to defraud instead of human error.

They saw a conspiracy because they were ignorant as to the messy messiness of human humanness.

If you had never seen that before you could easily jump to a conclusion that is not true. That does not mean you are stupid, but it does mean you are ignorant.

I saw untrained and inexperienced Republican Election Challengers jump to conclusions for 16 hours straight.

I saw people who were ignorant about the no re-entry rule lose their composure when faced with reality of not being let back in. They beat on windows, rattled doors, chanted, screamed and behaved in a manner I found to be rude at best and frighteningly dangerous at worse.

Finally, I was dismayed to see the Party of Law and Order not being able to follow the law nor keep order.

Ignorance will do that.

Phillip Farber
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:59am

Kudos to you Bill Schmidt! Our country needs more citizens like you. Perhaps there is hope after all.

Kevin
Thu, 11/26/2020 - 12:10am

Your article doesn't seem biased at all...