‘Watchers’ denied access to ballot counting at Detroit TCF Center due to COVID restrictions

Tensions high among Trump, Biden supporters in Detroit Wednesday

As ballots are being counted throughout the state of Michigan, tensions ran high in the “counting room” at the TCF Center in Detroit Wednesday afternoon.

DETROIT – The U.S. has seen record voter turnout in the 2020 General Election, including in Michigan -- but increased voter participation has led to delayed results and high tensions across the aisle.

Michigan experienced its largest voter turnout in state history this November, with more than five million votes cast -- including three million by absentee ballots.

As ballots are still being counted throughout the state of Michigan, tensions ran high in the “counting room” at the TCF Center in Detroit Wednesday afternoon.

Supporters of President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump swarmed the TCF Center on Wednesday in an effort to enter the counting room and watch the ballot-counting process. In Michigan, citizens are allowed to observe the ballot-counting process to ensure everything is being counted fairly and accurately.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people allowed to observe the process has been limited to prevent the spread of COVID.

Both Trump and Biden supporters waited outside of the center for hours in hopes to observe the process. Republican supporters chanted “stop the count," while Democratic supporters chanted a contrasting “count every vote.”

“This election will have consequences for years to come," said Abraham Aiyash, Representative Elect for the state’s 4th House District. “It’s very important that every single vote is counted. It’s vital that every person can practice their right to vote, and it’s important to have that vote counted.”

The demonstration came as the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Michigan Wednesday afternoon, claiming that they did not have access to the ballot-counting process.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement Wednesday that the campaign “has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law.” He says the lawsuit was filed “to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted.”

There is no evidence of any nefarious activity in Michigan, as ballot counting delays were expected, given the massive increase in absentee voting. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday night that ballot-counting processes throughout the state -- including at the TCF Center -- have been meticulous and transparent.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the Associated Press projected that Joe Biden won the state of Michigan in the presidential election.

Biden support Yolanda Moore was part of the crowd at the TCF Center Wednesday. She said she thinks he was the better choice for the state and country.

“I’m just hoping that all of this is over soon," Moore said. “It’s been too personal. We’ve lost loved ones to COVID -- I’ve lost a friend and her dad. It’s just too much.”

With the outcome of the U.S. presidential race still in limbo, Trump and his supporters seized on — and spread — online misinformation about legally cast absentee and mail-in votes in battleground states. They used it as fodder to support the president’s baseless declaration on live television early Wednesday that Democrats were trying to “steal the election” from him. The truth is, it’s standard practice in the United States to continue counting votes after Election Day.

Read: Trump and allies spread falsehoods to cast doubt on election

Benson says she’s asking voters to prepare for and fight off misinformation, which she believes is likely to spread in the coming days as the country awaits official election results.

Both Benson and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said the demonstrations at the TCF Center were just distractions from completing the counting. Both said that no voter fraud occurred during this ballot-counting process.

Related: AP: Democrat Gary Peters defeats John James in Michigan US Senate race

View live 2020 General Election results here

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.