Poll Watchers Allege Election Manipulation in Detroit Vote Count

Poll Watchers Allege Election Manipulation in Detroit Vote Count
A worker with the Detroit Department of Elections reaches for an absentee ballot at the Central Counting Board in the TCF Center in Detroit, Mich., on Nov. 4, 2020. (Elaine Cromie/Getty Images)
Eva Fu

Republican poll watchers are alleging a number of suspicious behaviors at the ballot counting center in Detroit, Mich.

One of them, Qian Schmidt, witnessed tens of thousands of absentee ballots arrive at the TCF Center, the only facility in Wayne County processing absentee ballots, in the wee hours after Election Day. In an interview with The Epoch Times, she described this and other dubious behavior during ballot counting, including physical intimidation when she voiced challenges.

Edward McCall, who worked with Schmidt during the same shift from 10 p.m. on Nov. 3 to 5 a.m. the next morning, has filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against the city of Detroit and Wayne County over the vote count. The 78-page lawsuit, supported by six sworn witness statements, alleged instances of voter fraud ranging from ballot backdating, unregistered voters, and tens of thousands of unsecured ballots.

Schmidt alleged that a van carrying boxes of ballots appeared shortly after 4 a.m. Nov. 4, one hour before she was due to finish her shift. But the whereabouts of these votes remained unclear, she said.

As Schmidt happened to be sitting near the loading garage entrance when the van came in, she caught a glimpse of the vehicle and saw words about the Detroit election and phone number on its exterior. There were 61 boxes inside, all of which the workers wheeled away, she said. A supervisor at the center said there were more than 16,800 ballots inside.

They had earlier stopped counting sometime past midnight because there were no more ballots coming in, according to Schmidt.

The delayed arrival of the boxes surprised Schmidt. All polls in the state closed at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. According to Michigan election law, additional absentee ballots received past 8 p.m. are not accepted.

“It just felt wrong,” Schmidt told The Epoch Times. “It’s not like you are flying from China [to deliver the ballot]… Isn’t it a gas pedal away?”

Two other poll challengers on Nov. 3 supported Schmidt’s claim. Andrew Sitto, who was in the center of the counting room at the time, said he saw tens of thousands of ballots brought in from the rear of the room at 4:30 a.m. and placed onto eight tables, according to a Nov. 9 affidavit. Qiling Yu, who was tasked with watching incoming vehicles in the loading garage, confirmed Schmidt’s count and described the vehicle as a white commercial van. The van had an out-of-state license plate, although Yu noted it could be a rental car. The ballots arrived in trays that appeared to be USPS mail bins with an open top and without a proper seal.

“There’s no tape, no seal. They are very sloppily packaged,” Yu told The Epoch Times. “People can switch ballots or take [them] out easily.”

Yu said he regretted not taking a picture of the van. He took down the license plate number as part of his duty and handed all the records by the end of his shift to a supervisor.

The ballots in the boxes were not distributed to Schmidt’s table for processing. Schmidt and others were told to remain at their seats until 5 a.m., when everyone would be evacuated from the facility.

On Wednesday, a dozen poll watchers from the Michigan Chinese Conservatives Alliance were unable to enter the building, according to the organization’s president Gary Yang. Election officials also covered up the windows with cardboard or pizza boxes to block the view from outside, Yang told The Epoch Times.

Sitto, who exited the counting room for a break after 2 p.m., was denied entry upon his return, according to the court affidavit.


Schmidt said an “aggressive” group of nonpartisan poll observers clad in black targeted her and other poll watchers who voiced concerns about potential irregularities during the ballot counting.

Schmidt became alarmed when she saw a poll worker duplicating a ballot by hand with a blank ticket. She and McCall relayed the incident to two supervisors, one of whom wore a sparkling mask with the words “Black Lives Matter.” Soon, a group surrounded them and gave them angry stares. They also pointed fingers at Schmidt and McCall, and accused the two of breaching the rules of not talking with poll workers. Some of the people in the group wore shirts with the words “election protectors” and “non-partisan.”

The group was well-organized, and a middle-aged person wearing an earpiece appeared to act as the leader, Schmidt said. “As soon as [someone from] a table voiced ballot challenges, saying something seemed to be off or asking for review, these people would flock over,” she said.

When Schmidt asked about the duplicate ballot again, the workers’ supervisor, a woman named Monica, told her that the worker had to do so because the original ticket was written in pencil and didn’t go through the scanning machine.

She observed at least six irregularities between roughly 11 p.m. and sometime past midnight, she said.

Update: Schmidt has submitted an affidavit for the federal lawsuit that President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed in Michigan late-night Nov. 10.