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The Threat to Free and Fair Elections Is Real. I Saw It.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

This past week, Detroiters and Michiganders alike were denied their right to a free and fair election. I know because I saw it firsthand. 

I was a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit from dawn to dusk on November 4. The many bungled protocols and perceived bias against Republican poll workers were as eye-opening as they were concerning.


Oftentimes, a ballot must be duplicated because smudges, frays, or the use of a checkmark (in lieu of filling in the bubble) prevent it from being properly tabulated. During the duplication process, election inspectors are typically charged with drawing a blank ballot and transferring the voter’s choices from the original ballot to the new one. From there, one election inspector will verbally call off the voter’s choices while another poll worker marks them in. The poll workers then reverse roles to double-check the accuracy of the selections. 

According to the Michigan Department of Elections, this cross-check process “must be [done] by two election inspectors who have expressed a preference for different political parties.”

Unfortunately, this was not the process I witnessed. In fact, one poll supervisor said that cross-checking with one Republican and one Democrat was not necessary if a third party (another poll worker) was present. I challenged this attempt to sidestep the rules, but it fell on deaf ears. 

I also noticed Republicans were often excluded—literally shoved aside in some cases—from observing the handling of original ballots. This made it difficult to verify that the original ballot was properly discarded, as opposed to counted alongside its duplicate. Original ballots should be labeled with a number and the duplicate labeled with the same number preceded by “Dup.” Yet, in my observation, this practice was largely ignored. 


These failures to stick to protocol didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the process, considering the overwhelming majority of poll workers were Democrats. The risk of error—willful or not—was substantial. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I also observed instances of names, envelope numbers, and ballot stubs that didn’t match those on the poll books. I saw poll workers assign the ballots of unregistered voters to different people in the poll book, even if that voter had already cast a ballot in-person. I saw poll workers consistently fail to verify name, voter number, and ballot number. Before poll challengers were even available, absentee ballots were opened and assigned a voter number prior to Election Day—entirely against our procedure. These ballots were even left open overnight in haphazard containers. 

When I came back the next day to continue my work, the doors were blocked—by police. Republican challengers were not being allowed in while organized liberal activists still swarmed the room.

Election Day winners will argue that no fraud took place. But after the hoops myself and other poll workers were forced to jump through just to do our jobs, it’s nearly impossible for that to be true. If there was nothing to hide in Detroit, then why the organized and aggressive efforts to avoid review?


Rick Tiseo is a native Michigander and worked as a poll challenger in the 2020 election. 

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