The GOP Is Trying to Throw Out Thousands of Votes in Detroit—Again

It’s 2020 redux.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty

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Absentee ballot processing kicks off today in Michigan, and the Trump-backed candidate running to become the state’s top election official is already trying to throw out tens of thousands votes—specifically in the Democratic stronghold of Detroit, which is 78 percent Black.

Kristine Karamo, an election denier whose Secretary of State campaign is supported by the “Coalition of America First“—a group of Trump loyalists seeking more “partisan influence over how elections are run”—filed her lawsuit in late October, with less than two weeks to Election Day. She’s levying a barrage of claims about improprieties in how absentee ballots are requested and verified in Detroit’s Wayne County—from the way signatures are verified to the manner in which ballot drop boxes are monitored. As evidence, her complaint references conspiracy theories related to Dominion voting systems and cites the discredited Dinesh D’Souza film “2,000 Mules,” which alleges widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Karamo is asking a state court to throw out any absentee ballot that was not requested in person, as well as any submitted by mail or drop box in Detroit. As of October 28, more than 79,000 absentee ballots have been issued to voters in the city, and more than 43,000 have been returned, the Detroit Free-Press reported

“They seek to disenfranchise every voter who voted by mail but only in the city of Detroit—the largest African-American city in Michigan. It’s no accident,” David Fink, the city’s lawyer, said in a hearing last week. “This case was intended to do one thing and only one thing, which is to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in Detroit.”  Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, also called out the lawsuit at a press conference last week: “It is designed to stop the effort to mobilize and drive voter participation. It is targeted in its content and racist by its intent. It is intended to disenfranchise Black voters.” 

Karamo and her lawyer, who are Black, insist their challenge has nothing to do with the Detroit electorate’s racial demographics.

If any of this sounds familiar, it should. In 2020, mainly Republican plaintiffs bombarded Michigan courts with complaints about election integrity—all of which failed or stalled, according to the American Bar Association’s tabulation. The Trump’s campaign’s 2020 lawsuit explicitly targeted Wayne County, and was filled with overt references to race—such as a statement filed alongside the complaint claiming “intimidation by poll workers wearing [Black Lives Matter] face masks and another man of intimidating size with a BLM shirt on.” Trump withdrew his lawsuit eight days after he filed it, falsely claiming it had succeeded.

According to a late October poll, incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson leads Karamo by 10 points.

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