COMPLAINT: At the Huntington Place ballot counting site in Detroit after the Aug. 2 election, at least 50% of ballots lacked proof of signature verification, and large bags and coolers under tables caused a problem of security.
FACTS: All ballots counted at the facility had gone through the signature review process and the bags and coolers contained food and personal items for election workers who were unable to leave during the counting of ballots. A Detroit convention center that doubled as a ballot counting site became the hub of election lies in November 2020, and after Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary election this week, similar online claims are income in effect.
Social media posts and Tory blog posts have misrepresented what poll watchers or volunteers allowed to observe the counting process, supposedly observed at the Huntington Place ballot counting site, formerly known under the name of TCF Center. The messages reported that Republican poll watchers observing the counting process “wondered why at least 50% of the ballots lacked certification that they had been checked for signature verification.”
The posts also implied that “duffel bags, coolers and a variety of large bags” visible under tables at the facility could pose a security risk as they were next to trays containing mail-in ballots. Those claims are misleading, according to Daniel Baxter, an election administrator for the city of Detroit, and Chris Thomas, a former state election chief who currently helps run Detroit’s absentee count committee. The messages claimed that if the mail-in ballots had been verified by signature, they would have been marked as such in a box printed on the envelopes. They said poll watchers noticed several boxes on the envelopes were unmarked.
However, the reason some of the boxes on the envelopes were unmarked was that a machine that helps with the signature verification process marked the ballots slightly lower than the boxes, Thomas and Baxter explained. In Detroit, clerks verify most voter signatures on mail-in ballots using a mail-processing system called Relia-Vote, Baxter said. A machine dates mail-in ballot envelopes and photographs the signatures on them so clerks can view the images on a screen, digitally comparing them to signatures on the roster of qualified voters.
If a clerk rejects the signature on a ballot envelope, that ballot does not advance to be counted, Baxter said. If the clerk approves it as correspondence, the Relia-Vote system marks the envelope with the number of the ballot stub and the name of the clerk who approved it, and sends it for tabulation. The Relia-Vote system marks ballots at the bottom of envelopes, Thomas said. That’s why many ballot envelopes viewed on the Huntington Place ballot counting site did not bear the markings that pollwatchers expected.
“In all cases, when the ballots were processed by the clerks or inspectors at the central counting office, all signatures were reviewed,” Baxter said.
The messages also suggested that large bags and coolers located under tables during the counting of ballots were a security concern. Baxter and Thomas dismissed this claim, explaining that everyone working in the room was constantly monitored during the counting process. Baxter and Thomas said many site workers brought coolers with food to eat because safety protocols required them to stay on site for their entire shift, which lasted several hours. Thomas said the many poll watchers and reporters present at the facility during the counting process would notice if anyone tried to sneak a ballot in or out. Baxter pointed out that audits of the mail-in ballot counting process would also help identify these issues.