Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Big Turn-Out & Successful Count
Also shine light on voter disenfranchisement, bad-faith vote challenging at TCF Center
DETROIT – Community and labor leaders gathered for an online press conference with the Secretary of State's office today to celebrate the record-breaking voter turn-out, discuss improvements to elections, and shine a light on attempts to disenfranchise Detroiters during the absentee vote-counting process.
Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler shared the work of his office, “We are thrilled with the record-breaking turn-out and also with the speed and accuracy of the counting process. We delivered a secure election under trying circumstances and tallied the results ahead of schedule. The people of Michigan should be confident: their voices have been heard.”
Indeed, Secretary of State Benson under-promised and over-delivered. Despite earlier estimates that counting would proceed well into Friday, the Secretary of State was able to finalize the count on Wednesday.
Melanie McElroy, Democracy Manager at Michigan Voice shared her experience running a statewide effort to protect voters' rights at the polls, “Overall, the majority of ballots were cast without incident, but we still have work to do to make sure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot. The biggest problem on Election Day was poll workers turning voters away for not having an ID. But in Michigan, registered voters without an ID can cast a ballot by signing an affidavit. We urge local clerks to re-train poll workers so that no one else is disenfranchised.”
Finally, the group heard from Kate Mason, Election Protection Coordinator at Michigan United. She shared her experience spending a night and a day at the TCF Center, protecting legally cast ballots from being erroneously challenged by Republican challengers, “I watched Republican challengers challenge nearly every ballot, usually for absolutely no legal reason. It was a deliberate attempt to hijack the process and throw out Detroiters' votes. This is part of the long history of racist efforts to disenfranchise people of color. We stood together and protected the vote, but we shouldn't have had to,” Mason said.
Mason described how some Republican challengers were racially abusive, and others were so disruptive they had to be removed from the count room by police. Others violated social distancing by looming over poll workers or were aggressive and rude to poll workers, demanding that votes be thrown out. Mason and a team of volunteer attorneys and law students stood watch, intervening to prevent legally cast votes from being challenged from Tuesday night until Wednesday evening.
Michigan United grants you unrestricted use of the video and audio from this conference (below) for broadcast over the air and via any digital platforms.