Detroit: Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered at the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were being counted by volunteers, shouting for workers to “stop the count” after President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit to stop tallying ballots until his campaign was granted access to the process.
The protesters, many of whom said they wanted to be poll monitors, were initially blocked by police at the front door of the convention center. The crowd entered the building through an unguarded rear door and resumed chanting inside, but didn’t disrupt the counting.
“I came down to be a challenger,” said Fred, from Royal Oak, a suburb north of Detroit. He declined to give his last name. “We believe that there is an order out right now that the counting should be stopped, but apparently they are not stopping. It came from the White House, through legal means. Some judge has ordered it, but they won’t stop.”
No hearing has yet been set in the Trump campaign’s challenge of Michigan vote tallies.
Fred said StandUp Michigan was one of the groups that organized the event. He was also there on Monday, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Detroit Police Department said the gathering had been peaceful and the police didn’t need to intervene.
“They’re chanting, but it’s manageable,” said Sergeant Nicole Kirkwood, a spokeswoman with the Detroit Police Department said earlier Wednesday.
Penny Crider, a Republican volunteer from Livonia, Michigan, said she answered a call for additional monitors that went out this morning across email and Facebook.
Crider, who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican candidate for the Michigan state legislature in August, arrived at the TCF center at 10 a.m. and was admitted as a Republican ballot challenger. She said Republican challengers were outnumbered by Democrats, that non-partisan watchers were sympathetic to Democrats and that many of her ballot challenges were overruled.
Cardboard bins of ballots were inappropriately handled, she said.
“We’ve got people opening those up, they’re taking the ballots out, they’ve got a pen in their hand, and they’re doing stuff,” she said.
There were about 225 Republican, 250 Democrat and around 70 independent challengers, though some of the partisan members had been obtaining independent credentials to enter, said Lawrence Garcia, the Detroit city attorney and an election commissioner.
Election officials stopped admitting people because they accidentally had allowed the number of challengers to exceed the 134-person maximum, he said. “Those are the rules,” he said. “We have to play by them.”
Mark Brewster, a volunteer poll challenger with the Democratic Party who was in the TCF counting room starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday, said he never saw any of the practices Crider described.
“None of the Democrats in there are trying to disqualify a ballot or disqualify a voter, we’re just observing the process and frankly keeping an eye on the Republicans,” he said. “Their goal is to disrupt and slow down and disenfranchise voters, so we’re actually spending more time watching them than these workers” who are counting ballots.
Michigan allows any registered voter to observe the count, as long as they don’t interfere in the process. They cannot challenge votes. A vote challenger has to be appointed by a political party or other qualified interest group, and can challenge votes and election inspectors.
“We will not allow ANYONE to distract us from the job at hand,” Janice Winfrey, Detroit’s city clerk, said in a statement. “Our charge is to remain calm, focused and deliberate as we continue the task at hand.”
YouTuber Steven Crowder, who is popular with Trump supporters, tweeted pictures and video from the TCF Center that he alleged might be examples of voter fraud, including workers covering up some windows with foam sheets.-Bloomberg