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Voting-rights advocates fear overzealous poll challengers on Election Day

Michigan voting-rights advocates fear poll challengers acting out of bounds will suppress votes on Election Day.
Idaho Secretary of State Elections Office
Michigan voting-rights advocates fear poll challengers acting out of bounds will suppress votes on Election Day.

On Election Day, poll challengers could be heading to precincts across the state. Observing and challenging election irregularities at polling sites is a process laid out in Michigan law. But voting-rights advocates are concerned some challengers will take things too far.

One organization sending out challengers is the Election Integrity Force. It was one of the groups behind the discredited and unsuccessful effort to decertify Michigan's 2020 election results. The group's Executive Director Sandy Kiesel said the goal of poll challengers is transparency.

“The more people who can look at all of these steps in this process and see the same thing, the more we’ll be able to trust elections,” she said.

The potential presence of Election Integrity Force volunteers at polling locations around the state is raising fears of voter suppression.

Aghogho Edevbie is the Michigan state director for the group All Voting is Local.

“To describe the challenges made by EIF prior to the primary election as indiscriminate and without good cause would be generous. These illegitimate challenges failed to comply with Michigan election law both as to how they were made and the basis on which they sought to challenge the voter registration of citizens of this state,” Edevbie said in a statement.

Talking to reporters Friday, he said he's worried about poll watchers baselessly challenging voters and ballots, which is illegal.

“You have to file an individual challenge towards an individual voter record. You can’t just send a clerk thousands and thousands of names to challenge every single name on that list,” Edevbie said.

Election officials say challengers can face ejection for not following the rules. But Edevbie and others are worried about the timing and potential disruption that having to address several challenges would have on the voting process.

Khalilah Spencer is board president for the Promote the Vote coalition, a group behind Michigan’s Proposal 2 on the ballot this year.

“There may be intentions to ... interfere with voting, but just know that there are going to be volunteers to counteract that measure so that the election officials and clerks can work without interference, make sure that the polls and the voting goes on without interference,” Spencer said.

Neither Edevbie and Spencer, nor Kiesel, gave specific details as to how many people they hope to have out at the polls on Tuesday. But Kiesel said her group has gotten approval to have watchers in most counties.

She said their goal isn’t to cause trouble.

“We have this narrative out there that poll challengers are there to create violence or create situations in the counting room. ... None of the poll challengers we’ve been working with have indicated that that’s their plan,” Kiesel said.

She said it’ll be up to the challengers themselves to decide where to be stationed on election day.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Colin Jackson