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Election Integrity News Blog


Confusion But No Fraud

A First-Hand Account of Working a Primary from a First-Time, Michigan Election Inspector

By Kristine Christlieb | March 12, 2024

In the fall of 2020, I was the Church Militant reporter assigned to cover the Presidential election in Georgia, including all the post-election chaos.

I wrote a number of stories about Fulton County – the after-hours ballot counting, the suitcases pulled out from under the tables, the mysterious water leak.

Naturally, I was aware of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the mother-daughter poll workers accused, and later found innocent, of election fraud.

When I arrived at Precinct 2’s polling place in Ecorse, Michigan, and was introduced to another mother-daughter team, Carol and Mikaia Riggs, I couldn’t help feeling déjà vu all over again.

Carol was chairing the precinct team and her daughter was running the computer equipment.

There were seven of us assigned to Precinct 2. I wasn’t surprised to learn I was the only Republican.

Voting in Rust Belt America

Ecorse, Michigan, just south of Detroit and running along Interstate 75, is considered one of the so-called downriver communities. It sits in the shadow of Marathon Petroleum’s refineries and a former U.S. Steel plant. There is not much pretty about the town.

The 1970s decline in the auto and steel industries led to the city being the first in U.S. history to go bankrupt.

The city faced another budget crisis in 2009. Governor Jennifer Granholm declared a financial emergency as city officials had to deal with a $9 million deficit and a federal corruption probe. Eventually, the mayor and city controller were arrested and convicted on bribery charges.

In 1950 at the height of its population, nearly 18,000 people lived in Ecorse. By 2020, the population had fallen to a little more than 9,000 people.

This is a city that has experienced a lot of pain in the last 50 years.

A Long Day

Poll workers were told to arrive between 6:00 and 6:15 a.m. and expect to stay until after the polls close at 8:00 p.m. Fourteen hours is a long day under any circumstances, but in this presidential primary, it was particularly grueling.

Only 93 people showed up to vote. Nearly all were votes for Biden.

Except for me and one other worker, a friend of Carol’s, all the workers knew one another and had worked together before. They welcomed me warmly, and took the positions they had worked before. I really didn’t have a job. At first, I was assigned to give out “I voted” stickers. Then that job went to one of the former workers when he arrived after me.

I sat at a table alone and pretended to check identification, but my position was really unnecessary. I spent most of the day working on a personal project on my computer. When a voter wandered in, I checked the ID, a second time, trying to make myself useful.

I saw absolutely no irregularities in the identification portion of the ballot process. Every voter arrived with some form of official identification.

During training, we were encouraged to become familiar with all the work stations. For a time, I was given the opportunity to check in the voters, reviewing their request for a Republican or Democrat ballot.

When I asked to spend time practicing on the computer, Mikaia told me that wasn’t allowed, I needed to have additional training to work on the computer. I later learned from the Clerk’s office that Mikaia was mistaken about that.

Closing the Polls

The closing process involves a number of steps requiring official seals and signatures.

There were some missteps that required reopening and resealing at least one of the official envelopes. But there were multiple eyes on that process. There was no reason to think anything but a bit of confusion was at play.

As the sole Republican, my signature was required several times.

We were all tired, eager to go to the clerk’s office to get our checks and go home. But then there was another glitch. We were unable to balance the tabulator ballots cast to voter count. The number of voters failed to match the number of counted ballots.

In the entire 14-hour shift, the only person entering data in the computer was the chair’s daughter, Mikaia. At the end of the night, when she couldn’t get the software program to balance, she was the one on the hot seat.

The final balance required calculating the number of unused ballots. I wondered if that might not be the problem. Since I wasn’t given access to the computer, I’m not sure where she went wrong.

All we knew was that we were not going to be able to get our checks and leave until our numbers balanced. With only 93 voters, it seemed as if that should be easy.

We were instructed to bring everything into the clerk’s office where the election administrator could identify the problem.

Carol and Mikaia went into the clerk’s office while the rest of us waited in the lobby. Official documents were brought out to me, without explanation, to initial, which I did.

I didn’t think there was any attempt on anyone’s part to steal a vote or cheat. I think there was simply confusion as to what numbers needed to be entered.

Nevertheless, a few days later, I called the clerk’s office and asked what happened. I was assured that the problem was easily handled. I asked specifically about the unused ballots and was told that had been the problem. I also asked about not being allowed to use the computer; that’s when I learned I had been misinformed. No additional training was required.

I strongly recommend being involved in some fashion at the polls on election day. A lot of thought has been given to protecting our votes. That was reassuring to observe first-hand. But I was also glad that I was there because if I hadn’t been, both sides would not have been represented.


Kristine Christlieb volunteers for Michigan Fair Elections and serves on MFE's communications team. She publishes Trust but Verify on Substack.


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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Michigan Fair Elections. Every article written by an MFE author is generated by the author or editor alone. Links embedded within the article, however, may have been generated by artificial intelligence.

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