Detroit lawyers say fraud allegations based on 'extraordinary failure to understand how elections function'

The city of Detroit has rejected claims of cheating brought by Trump supporters, stating in a court filing that the allegations made by a handful of election observers and one election worker were based on a lack of understanding the processes they were watching.

“Most of the objections raised in the submitted affidavits are grounded in an extraordinary failure to understand how elections function,” wrote attorneys for the city in a response filed Wednesday in Wayne County Circuit Court.

The lawyers pointed out that President Trump received almost three times as many votes in Detroit in the 2020 election than he did four years ago: 12,654, up from 4,972 in 2016.

The city also said that they explained their vote-counting process to Republican observers who had been trained by their party, and resolved any issues without challenges or complaints from those observers.

A pro-Trump lawsuit against the city, filed by the Great Lakes Justice Center on Monday, was brought in part on behalf of observers who “did not operate through the leadership of their challenger party, because the issues they bring forward were by and large discussed and resolved with the leadership of their challenger party,” the city said.

The complaints in the Great Lakes lawsuit were in fact not filed until after the vote count showed Democrat Joe Biden leading Trump in the Michigan count.

The lawyers said that the request that Michigan delay its certification of the election results based on this lawsuit would be antidemocratic.

“To disenfranchise millions of voters based on isolated speculation and debunked conspiracy theories has no place in our democracy,” the city lawyers wrote.

The filing also pointed to evidence on social media that two of the individuals who signed affidavits in the Great Lakes lawsuit were adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, in which followers promote the bizarre lie that Trump has been fighting to expose a child-trafficking ring run by prominent Democrats.

The city pointed to social media posts in which both men used QAnon hashtags and slogans, and stated before the election that it was rigged, without evidence and based only on meritless statements made by Trump.

The Great Lakes lawsuit claimed that election workers were told not to check signatures on mail ballots, that extra mail ballots were brought in and all counted for Biden, that election workers back-dated mail ballots so that they could be counted, and that they “used false information to process ballots” — such as adding birthdays in the year 1900 to some voter entries.

The lawsuit also claimed election observers were blocked from watching vote-counting at key moments, that votes from ineligible voters were counted, and that a handful of city workers “coached” voters to cast ballots for Biden.

The city of Detroit’s filing refuted all of these claims.

Election workers at the TCF Center, a Detroit convention center where much of the county’s vote tabulation took place, were instructed not to check mail-ballot signatures during the count, the city said. This was because signature-matching had already been done before the ballots arrived at TCF Center.

“Signature verification was not done at the TCF by counting board inspectors, because it had been completed by the city clerk’s staff,” the city said.

Complaints made in the Great Lakes lawsuit about mail ballots — known in Michigan as absent voter ballots — being backdated, with the implication that they had arrived after Election Day, were also plainly false, the city said. “No ballots received by the Detroit City Clerk after 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020 were even brought to the TCF Center,” the city’s attorneys wrote. “No ballot could have been ‘backdated,’ because no ballot received after 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020 was ever at the TCF Center.”

As for the notion that ineligible votes were counted, or that votes were concocted out of thin air and assigned to names of people who didn’t vote, the city said that what Republican observers inside TCF really saw was election workers correcting an error by some election workers at satellite locations, who failed to complete a process that allowed some mail ballots to be counted. It was necessary to enter the date for these ballots to allow them to count, the city said.

“Every single ballot delivered to the TCF Center had already been verified as having been completed by an eligible voter,” the city said.

A woman celebrates Biden election
A woman in Detroit celebrates the announcement of Joe Biden's victory. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The charge of extra ballots being brought in was related to the arrival of blank ballots that were sent to TCF for use by election workers. These ballots were given to election workers so they could function as duplicate ballots in case legitimate ballots were damaged and could not be read by voting machines, the filing said.

“Michigan election law does not call for partisan challengers to be present when a ballot is duplicated; instead, when a ballot is duplicated as a result of a ‘false read,’ the duplication is overseen by one Republican and one Democratic inspector coordinating together,” Detroit’s lawyers wrote. “That process was followed, and Plaintiffs do not — and cannot — present any evidence to the contrary.”

The Trump campaign, in a lawsuit of its own filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, claimed that there were cases in which “ballot duplication was performed only by Democratic election workers, not bipartisan teams.” This claim has already been dismissed in one lawsuit filed last week by the Trump campaign in Michigan’s Court of Claims.

Detroit city attorney David Fink said in a statement provided to Yahoo News that the Trump campaign suit “simply repeats the baseless claims that have been made in four separate lawsuits and that already have been refuted by each court that has ruled so far.”

Observers were allowed at all times, and the city had large computer screens so they could observe each counting station from a safe distance given concerns about COVID-19, the city said. At one point, the room was so full of observers — there were “more than 200” Republican observers there, the city said — that it was “overcrowded” and for a limited time the city would not allow any additional observers inside until someone from their party left.

And as for the accusation of “false information,” the city said that some mail ballots that arrived between Sunday night and Tuesday — all before the close of polls on Tuesday night — needed to have the birth date manually entered due to a software “quirk.”

Election workers entering the birth date for those ballots used Jan. 1, 1900 as a “placeholder date” until the ballot entry can be matched to the voter’s entry in the state voter file. “That birthday will appear in several places in the electronic poll book record for a limited period,” the city said.

That leaves the allegation of city workers “coaching” voters to cast ballots for Biden, a claim made by a city worker named Jessy Jacob in the lawsuit.

The city said that if this were true it would be “contrary to the instructions given to workers at the satellite locations,” but also said that it was “curious that Ms. Jacob waited until after the election to raise these allegations.”

Jacob also said she saw some voters casting in-person ballots at city locations without signing a form stating they had lost their mail ballot. The city said they have procedures in place to prevent anyone from voting twice.

And another complaint by Jacob, that she was instructed to “adjust the mailing date of … absentee ballot packages to be dated earlier than they were actually sent,” was treated as an oddity in the city’s response.

“It is ... unclear what the point of her claim is—the date on the ballot package being sent to voters holds no legal significance. What matters is when the ballot is returned. If it was not returned and received before 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020, it was not counted,” the city said.

The city noted that Jacob had been furloughed prior to the election, was brought back to work during election season in September, and was furloughed again immediately after the election.


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