Voting rights advocates prepare for increase of ‘frivolous challenges’ at the polls

Voting site Detroit Chrysler Elementary School in Detroit on Primary Election Day Aug. 4, 2020 | Ken Coleman

By Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance

Voting rights organizations in Michigan are preparing for Election Day after seeing reports about growing efforts from right-wing activists to make “frivolous challenges” at the polls.

Progress Michigan, Promote the Vote and All Voting is Local held a press conference Friday morning to discuss last-minute litigation and efforts from organizations and individuals who are sowing distrust in the election system. 

“I think our elected officials and election officials have tried to treat everyone who makes a challenge as acting in good faith. But unfortunately, it’s just very clear that there are some folks out here who are hell bent on creating chaos, and trying to create a pretext to prevent certification of a vote that does not go their way,” said Aghogho Edevbie, the state director of All Voting is Local.

But for this election, Edevbie and Promote the Vote President Khalilah Spencer said voting rights groups are more coordinated and prepared to counteract election interference than they have been in previous years.

When asked how many poll challengers the voting rights groups are expecting to have on Tuesday, Edevbie wouldn’t give a specific number. 

“I think the heart of the question is: are we going to be prepared to stand up for voters rights and defend their ability to vote? And I am extremely confident that the coalition of groups … are ready and are capable of standing up against whatever happens in the next couple of weeks,” Edevbie said. 

He referenced a recent Reuters report that found in at least 19 states pro-Trump canvassers are canvassing door-to-door and questioning residents about their voter registration history and details. 

The report says that in Michigan, some of these canvassers — the Election Integrity Force — plan to use their “list of alleged irregularities” to challenge voters in all 83 counties on Tuesday to “to raise objections to people they suspect are not legally registered to vote.”

Since voters passed Proposal 3 in 2018, Michigan has same-day voter registration.

Spencer said voting rights groups are prepared to push back.

“A large network of voting rights advocates have recruited and trained hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to be the eyes and ears in communities targeted by these unlawful efforts to disenfranchise voters and disrupt our election process,” Spencer said. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said in a tweet Friday that challenges are part of a strategy to slow down voting and pave the way to challenge election results.

This is their strategy, folks.

Step 1: flood election with challenges, even if invalid

Step 2: challenges slow voting, create lines, deter voters

Step 3: cite existence of challenges – despite lack of validity – to block certification of fair, secure, accurate election results

— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) November 4, 2022

Benson’s GOP opponent, Kristina Karamo, filed a lawsuit last month to require Detroit voters to vote in person or obtain their ballots in person at the clerk’s office. After a lengthy hearing, a judge said Karamo’s lawyers had not proven the widespread fraud that prompted the suit. Karamo has repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election former President Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.

On Thursday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the poll challenger guidance put in place by Benson in May will continue through this election after conservative groups filed lawsuits against the rules. 

A Genesee Circuit Court Judge also dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee on Wednesday that would require Flint to hire more Republican election inspectors.  

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