The GOP Lawsuit in Michigan May Include Sworn Admissions from People Who Were Illegally Present

The reporting on the GOP lawsuits continues to be problematic with regards to election law. Take this Washington Post story, by otherwise credible journalists. It uses the word “challenger” three times — once in a caption, once in a direct quote from an affidavit, and once in a paragraph observing that people don’t understand Michigan election law.

They often seemed hampered by a lack of knowledge about Michigan’s election system. One challenger noted with concern that a group of absentee ballots “appeared in pristine condition, as if they had never gone through the U.S. Postal Service.” Michigan allows voters to drop off absentee ballots in drop boxes or at clerks’ offices, avoiding the mail, although it is not clear the circumstances around those ballots.

It uses the word “watcher” 18 times.

There are both poll “challengers” and “watchers” in Michigan. The former must be credentialed and are very limited in terms of number and actions at the polls. The latter are limited in where they can go in a regular precinct and cannot go into non-public areas (which the vote counting at TCF in Detroit would have been after it was closed for overcrowding). Here’s a quick guide for the difference during elections.

Generally, poll “watchers” are people from the party who monitor whether they’re getting their own voters out. “Challengers” are the only ones who are permitted to monitor the conduct of the election (they’re often lawyers, but sometimes bossy people like me perform the function).

According to the affidavits submitted as part of the MI lawsuit, a significant number of the affiants do not claim to have been poll “challengers.” Others do and include both descriptions of the training they received and the hours they were credentialed to be “challengers,” which suggests the ones that don’t mention being challengers probably weren’t.

A big part of the faux scandal in Detroit was that the GOP “watchers” were prohibited from being in the room, but in fact, they already had their designated number of “challengers” and many of the people clamoring at the door to be admitted weren’t “challengers” at all.

Any responsible report on these affidavits, then, must distinguish between the claims made by people who claim to have had a legal right to be in the room  or behind a table (in the case of normal polling locations), and those who make no such claim. Indeed, if someone who doesn’t claim to be a challenger complains that they weren’t permitted into the TCF count or got booted from it, they are effectively complaining that the law was properly enforced. For example, that appears to be the case for this complaint.

If someone writes an affidavit that she walked in off the street to observe the vote count and saw blue dogshit on a ballot, the story should not be “watcher alleges ballots were covered in blue dogshit,” but instead be that, “person filed sworn affidavit that she was illegally in the vote count room.”

There’s a lot of blue dogshit flying around when there should be more focus on people who seem to have admitted they were illegally in a room demanding the right to interfere with vote counting.

Update: Here’s the full MI guide to being a poll challenger. Note the limit on numbers of challengers in rooms counting absentee ballots.

In the absent voter counting board. Only one challenger per political party or sponsoring organization may serve in an absent voter counting board.

43 replies
  1. dude says:

    Thanks for explaining the distinction. Although not a resident of MIchigan, I assume the real difference between challenger and watcher is pretty common everywhere.

  2. Fraud Guy says:

    Now if I can only get a member of my household to read anything other than the topline claims to understand the difference and why it’s important.

  3. John Schultz says:

    I think this is a little overstated, but the upshot is the same.

    My interpretation is simply that a disorganized party called upon its misinformed membership, and encouraged them to participate in the election process in a way they were utterly unprepared to do. I’ve seen multiple references to “poll watchers,” in media reports and affidavits, but I believe all the people involved were credentialed, on the spot, as “election challengers” but they were neither informed enough nor careful enough to understand or note the distinction.

    I was surprised to learn on Wednesday the 4th that I needed no special expertise, training, or preparation to present myself at the TCF Center and be appointed as an Election Challenger by the Democratic Party of Michigan. There was a 5-minute training session for unskilled volunteers like me; leaders simply told us to keep an eye on the Republican election challengers and notify one of the Democratic attorneys or leaders if a Republican was disrupting ballot-processing at any of the Absent Voter Counting Boards. (I’m fairly certain that some Republicans took advantage of the looseness of this process, and actually secured their Election Challenger credentials from the Democratic party. We were each wearing a green dot sticker, so we could easily tell whether each AVCB was already covered by a Dem challenger. There were at least two green-dot-wearers who were not behaving like the rest of the Dem challengers, and seemed very chummy with a particular Republican.)

    I was also surprised to learn that the Republican party seemed to have recruited people in the same way. I initially felt in-over-my-head and didn’t understand the steps of the process happening around me, but all I was supposed to do was keep people from obstructing the process. I was actually stressed out by the thought of being a Republican challenger and trying to find something to challenge. As the day wore on, it became clear that most of the Republicans were suspicious people who had been frightened into reporting for duty, while a few were relatively-polished bad actors, who realized their role was to disrupt and cast aspersions on the Detroit vote-counting by any means available.

    None of this is to say that Republican election challengers *didn’t* break any laws. One of the clear communications to everyone present was that, aside from the media, we were not to take any photos. Around 12:30am on Thursday morning, I saw a Republican who identified himself as an attorney do just that, thinking he was very clever to notice ballot boxes sitting around “unattended” in the locked and guarded room with only election participants. I called him out on the no-photos rule, and he lied to me, an election official, and the security detail that removed him from the premises.

    I was also observing the counting of military AV ballots with a Republican challenger from St. Clair County. She was clearly among the number who had been warned that bad things were happening, so she was probably disappointed to find nothing untoward to report on. Nevertheless, she stuck around (she drove kind of a long way, after all) and kept taking notes on things. I assume she was just doing this to justify wasting her time on the whole project. The thing is, she was carefully writing down the names of each voter (I honestly can’t imagine why), each time a ballot was processed, and then—because each military ballot had to be “duplicated” onto a scannable ballot for tabulation—she insisted on checking that the election workers had correctly copied each vote from the original ballot to the duplicated one. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but she was taking down the voters’ names, AND THEN observing their votes. She deprived them of the secrecy of their ballots! (The counting board has a process in place to avoid this; the workers who duplicate the ballots can no longer identify the voter, except by ballot number, by the time they remove the ballot from its privacy envelope for duplication. But the nosy Republican challenger circumvented the process and broke the system.)

    In short, all of these complaints are anti-democratic nonsense, and the Republican party should be extremely ashamed of them.

      • Rayne says:

        I think the paragraph breaks were intended but whatever device and/or browser was used didn’t insert a blank line return.

        EDIT: I’ve inserted the blank line returns where it appeared they were intended. I’ve also removed the commenter’s email address from their username field because nobody really wants a deluge of bot-driven spam.

        • bmaz says:

          Sheesh, do you have any idea about what we face to keep this comment section sane, or exactly how problematic or expensive doing so is? No, of course you do not, and don’t think for a second that you do.

        • Timmer says:

          “we”….? Seems you have overestimated your value in the discussions I have seen here, other than brief negative retorts and criticisms.

        • bmaz says:

          Seems “you” do not know who are the people that actually run and curate this blog.

          “We” comment where we see fit. Thank you for your input.

        • bmaz says:

          Or do they? Have the Bears been cleared of Covid? Also, ASU might have an issue too. Last I heard here, there was no certainty game would be played. The ASU part I’m not sure of, but saw something just a while ago. I do hope they play. You should come to a late fall night game at Sun Devil Stadium, it is a pretty darn cool setting.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Well shoot. I was looking forward to that game. ESPN says there are still guys in quarantine.

          Part of the problem is the City of Berkeley is the one overseeing giving the players clearance, and they are very strict.

          SI says Cal is almost ready and there is talk of delaying till Sunday. That would be enough days in Q. But there is a possibility of a virus at ASU.

        • bmaz says:

          Who knows? In a different non-Covid year, this would be such a fun game to go to. 8:30 start is late even by our standards. Night games here are ridiculously cool.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          SI says that Cal would have to leave Friday for the Saturday game and they are not cleared to leave until Saturday. The thought is that they could fly Saturday and play Sunday, if they can delay the game.

          But they also said there might be a ‘virus’ at ASU so who knows, now.

        • Timmer says:

          You are most welcome. In that case “I” will continue to look to Marcy’s enlightening comments and merely attempt to temper your insults of “us” mere observers.

        • bmaz says:

          I did not thank you for anything, don’t bother me with your crappy “you are most welcome” baloney. Do whatever you want. Insulting the people that make this place go is probably not your best path. And since you seem to think you can only be enlightened by Marcy, I assume you have the same contempt as to the other principals here – Rayne, Jim and Ed – as you do me. Fine. If you cannot respect what we do here, get lost “Timmer”.

        • Timmer says:

          I have the same thirst for the knowledge from Rayne, Jim and Ed, since having been introduced by However, I will continue monitor and call out your insults of “us” mere observers, regardless of your limited role in intelligent discussion.

        • ThoughtMail says:

          Do continue to try to disabuse yourself of the notion that bmaz is here for intelligent discussion, or to learn anything not in the Bouncer’s Cookbook. Then you can move on to disabusing yourself of the notion that bmaz has anything constructive to do with his time, or even something else to do. Poor thing.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, hi there ThoughtMail, As usual, thank you for your thoughts and feelings. You have been here 90 days and 52 comments. “Timmer” has been here for barely more time, and less comments.

          Your tag team is amusing. The rest of us, at least on the front end, have been together, or at least around each other, for closing in on 15 years going back to before this blog was started.

          If you cannot deal with the minimal, and I do mean minimal, rules for commenting here, please get the fuck out. And, in the meantime, please tell the community what you and Timmer bring rather than whining.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Republican Party and Shame parted company with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. The GOP put Shame to sleep under Reagan, and they haven’t been on speaking terms since Newt Gingrich held sway. Whatever Shame does, it will have no effect on Trump or the GOP. None.

    • Rayne says:

      Would you be willing to share whether you received a prompt from a county/local party chapter, or if you received one from the state party encouraging your participation as a challenger? It’d be nice to know exactly where the breakdown happened as far as expectations of those who volunteered and the training received. Thanks!

      • Peterr says:

        At his rallies, Trump urged his supporters to go to the polls to watch what was going on and challenge the fraud that he was sure was being undertaken. That is, he seemed to be under the impression that just anyone could call themselves a poll watcher and go in to watch. And his supporters in various locations certainly believed the same, and were sure that being locked out of the rooms was proof, rather than simply applying the law that has been around for ages. I recall being a poll watcher in 1984, and just about the only thing that is different today is the technology – both for the election and for the poll watchers (prohibiting using your cell phone to take pictures was not a problem back then).

      • John Schultz says:

        I saw an ACLU volunteer ask for help on twitter, but the people who credentialed dozens of us ID’d as the state Dem party. I heard that Republicans shared a Facebook post, and their people all had “MI GOP” badges.

        As for a breakdown in expectations, I think both sides got what they wanted; the Republicans just wanted a big mess. Their volunteers probably expected to find real cheating, but the party is delighted with 240 pages of nonsense affidavits.

  4. Sandwichman says:

    It seems to me that affidavit of the Pennsylvania postal worker, Richard “Alex” Hopkins should be kind of a big deal. The Washington Post had a good article on how the audio tape uploaded to YouTube by Project Veritas confirms Hopkins’s recantation of his original affidavit and doesn’t support the PV claims of coercion or deception. Instead, it reveals a highly professional interview of a subject who had signed an affidavit written by PV lawyers he admittedly didn’t read carefully that made assertions based on his “logical assumptions” and not on facts.

  5. greengiant says:

    Anyone silent about the OAnn Qanon Trump stealing the election theft is part of the coup. The cult captured many local GOP chair people so it is a matter of honor or political death for many. The Wayne County prize seems to be having the 4 person board of canvassers tie out and fail to certify the Wayne County results. This leads to a state level dispute etc.
    If just one of these bat shit crazy burn the country down plots is successful then bad things happen.

  6. Mitch Neher says:

    Tomorrow may be the beginning of the end. Or not. The Cray-Cray crowd convenes in Washington D. C. on Saturday, November 14th, for the so-called Million MAGA March 2020.

    They have First Amendment protection. But there’s no open carry in D. C. They’d have to get permits for concealed carry.

    Hopefully no counter-protesters will take the bait. But it’s likely to become a super-spreader event, even if it remains peaceful.

    Maybe all the right-wing nut-jobs will wear masks the way the BLM movement does. Or not. Either way this is really starting to suck big time. Sorry for belaboring the obvious.

  7. greengiant says:

    EW talks about primacy of discussing the removal of those who kept the election safe.
    The Alfa bank lawsuits against the DNS lookup researchers seems to parallel Durham’s investigations at the same
    time seems to me to be throwing shade at any researchers monitoring internet traffic.

    As far as the Trump Dominion election machine hacking gambit playing out in PA and MI, hope people don’t get out over their skis. A pro-Trump party or troll could very well do a false flag operation against Trump to leave the bread crumbs that leave doubt about such charges. For example, hack just one or a few machines in places where machines are not hand checked or if checked do the Volkswagon diesel emissions test hack by running “correctly” when being tested.

  8. johno says:

    The Republicans grasping at any thread trying to overturn this election reminds me of the Butterfly Ballot in Palm Beach in 2000. It’s pretty clear the confusing ballot cost Gore 6607 votes in Florida when Bush “won” by 537.

    BTW, the Butterfly Ballot is my favorite example of the “Butterfly Effect”. A bad graphic design by Theresa Lepore changed world history. Gore may have been successful in altering the course of climate change… and likely no Iraq war; maybe no 9/11.

  9. skua says:

    Sidney Powell has got herself involved in trying to strengthen the fantasy of “a stolen election”.
    She has presented blather about voting machines and election software. But sadly Repub comment sections are awash with deluded believers – though probably many are bots or influencers.

    Powell is threatening to ‘release the kraken’.
    She claims that she has Trump’s go-ahead on this.
    (My advice is not to share a toilet facility with Sidney Powell in the next day or two.)

    Unfortunately Powell also said, “We are on the precipice — this is essentially a new American Revolution and anybody who wants this country to remain free needs to step up right now.”

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