Oct 31, 2022 - Politics

Election officials sound off on potential threats

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson outside Little Caesars Arena

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson outside Little Caesars Arena. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Election workers and voters are facing threats from right-wing vigilantes and legal efforts inspired by former President Trump's false claims about the 2020 election.

Driving the news: Last week we learned of potential mischief from poll challengers, threats of voter intimidation and a longshot lawsuit by GOP Secretary of State nominee Kristina Karamo to ban mail-in voting in the city of Detroit.

  • Now, the use of cell phones is likely to become a contentious topic at absentee counting boards after a recent Court of Claims decision — which Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is appealing — that invalidates new rules for poll challengers.

The intrigue: The decision allows cell phones in the absentee voter counting boards when workers and challengers are sequestered.

  • Challengers are now allowed to use cell phones from the time tabulation begins until 8pm on Election Day.
  • Chris Thomas, the state's former director of elections for several administrations, who currently serves as an advisor to Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, said that amounts to rendering sequestering unenforceable.

What they're saying: Confrontations over whether challengers can photograph workers during Detroit's pre-processing day — the Sunday prior to Election Day — are likely, Thomas said.

  • "I'm not accusing challengers of threatening workers," Thomas prefaced in a media call last week. "But I do believe from the history of 2020 that when those photos [of election workers] get put on social media, people will start tracking them down, figuring out who they are, threatening them and their families — this is now standard activity around this country."

What's more: Karamo's lawsuit seeks to require Detroit residents to vote in-person and disqualify any Wayne County Circuit Court judge from handling the case, the Detroit News reports.

  • Benson told Axios that the lawsuit is egregious. "Anyone who would want to serve as the chief election officer in Michigan or any other state and then days before an election try to invalidate votes in the largest city … It's sickening."
  • A show cause hearing is set for noon today at a Wayne County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, Michigan for America First, an affiliate of the far-right America Project, has called for drop box observers and poll challengers to fan out across Michigan, the Free Press reports.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more