Michigan sees a calm Election Day with few voting problems or shenanigans

By: - November 8, 2022 11:54 pm

2022 election signs in Ann Arbor, Nov. 8, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Two years after Republican protesters in Detroit placed Michigan in the national spotlight, Election Day was relatively calm across the state, with the worst-case scenarios not coming to pass.

There had been concerns that with election deniers on the ballot across the state, there could have been candidates declaring victory long before the votes, especially absentee ballots, were counted. Similarly, there were fears of potential violence against election workers or attempts to disrupt the voting process.

MIGOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock campaigns in Lansing on Aug. 27, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

A signal that those possibilities were unlikely to unfold came from Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock this evening. When asked if Republicans would prematurely declare victory before races were called by traditional sources like the Associated Press, she responded, “Absolutely not,” adding, “Republicans are not going to announce that they’ve won until they’ve won.”

The top three Democrats in the state — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — are all leading in early returns as of 11:45 p.m., with roughly 40% of the vote in, although the Associated Press hasn’t called the races.

Whitmer is facing Republican Tudor Dixon, Nessel is squaring off against Republican Matt DePerno and Benson is running against Republican Kristina Karamo.

There were a few voting hiccups on Tuesday.

The highest-profile incident involved a “handful” of polling locations in Detroit where electronic poll books mistakenly displayed an error message indicating voters who were seeking to vote in person had already been issued an absentee ballot. The issue was quickly resolved, and voting continued.

But the issue was quickly seized upon by former President Donald Trump, who took to social media to decry the glitch.

“The Absentee Ballot situation in Detroit is REALLY BAD,” said Trump on Truth Social, the social media company he founded. “People are showing up at the polls only to be told, “sorry, you have already voted.” This is happening in large numbers, elsewhere as well. Protest, Protest, Protest!”

That prompted Benson to respond, also on social media, and dispel the misinformation.

“This isn’t true,” said Benson. “Please don’t spread lies to foment or encourage political violence in our state. Or anywhere. Thanks.”

Karamo also spread misinformation about voting in Detroit and Ann Arbor throughout the day. Karamo has spread conspiracies about the 2020 election Trump lost to President Joe Biden.

Later Tuesday evening, Benson held a post-election press conference in Detroit and was asked about the exchange, telling reporters that in all circumstances, eligible voters were able to vote and condemned attempts to purposely mischaracterize them.

Voters during the noon hour at Louis Pasteur School in Detroit, Nov. 8, 2022 | Ken Coleman

“You see candidates do it, you see former presidents do it, essentially bad actors or folks with bad intentions will exploit these traditionally mundane and harmless issues to try to spread misinformation, raise money, gain celebrity, get in the news, deter and delegitimize voting, delegitimize democracy,” said Benson.

To that very point, DePerno was fundraising on his disproven claims of rigged elections an hour after the polls closed.

In an email sent to supporters at 9:05 p.m., DePerno, who is himself under investigation for tampering with election equipment following the 2020 election, said they must “fight like hell” until a winner is declared. 

“We cannot be complacent to let Jocelyn Benson and her goons steal another election!,” stated the email. “I need your help to ensure every ballot, every voting machine, and every vote counting location is watched closely.”

Links were included to donate “$25, $50, $100, $250 or more to SECURE THE VOTE!,” and concluded by saying they were “prepared to stay up as long as needed to ensure a FREE and FAIR election for all Michiganders.”

About a half an hour after the email was sent out. DePerno tweeted a less confrontational message, but one that was seemingly still designed to cast doubt on the electoral process.

“I know we’re all eagerly waiting to know who will be Michigan’s next attorney general,” said DePerno. “We must respect the election process and ensure that every *legal* ballot is counted. I ask that my supporters remain patient as hardworking election workers complete the count.

GOP attorney general nominee Matthew DePerno at a Macomb County Trump rally, Oct. 1, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Nessel pointed out in August, he suggested that ballots not counted by midnight shouldn’t be counted. DePerno is a Trump-endorsed election denier.

There were also two incidents involving poll challengers creating disturbances, one in Ann Arbor and another in Detroit. In each case, officials say poll workers followed de-escalation practices and after conversations, both challengers left without further incident.

Despite those incidents, Benson said that overall, the voting process went smoothly. 

“Voters were in and out of their polling places quickly and comfortably,” she said. “This is one of the marks of a successful election, and it is thanks to the diligent preparation of Republican, Democratic, and independent clerks who partnered with law enforcement and planned extensively to ensure every eligible citizen could exercise their right to make their voice heard and hold their elected leaders accountable.”

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.