NAACP calls Michigan GOP candidate's lawsuit against Detroit voting 'racist by its intent'

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Republican candidate for Michigan secretary of state Kristina Karamo has filed a last-minute lawsuit targeting Wayne County's absentee voting procedures.

With tens of thousands of Michigan residents already having cast their ballots in the midterm voting that ends with Election Day on Nov. 8, Kristina Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state challenging incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson, has filed a lawsuit in Wayne County in an eleventh-hour attempt to interrupt the process.

According to reporting by the Detroit News, the suit Karamo filed on Oct. 28 would require residents of Detroit, and only residents of Detroit, to cast their ballots in person or show a voter ID at the city clerk's office if they wanted to vote absentee.

The lawsuit alleges that the city's process for counting absentee ballots is flawed and should be "sent to the scrap heap of history." In particular it asks for changes to the process of signature examination and suggests that drop boxes are not secure.

In Detroit, absentee ballots are collected from multiple precincts and counted at the Huntington Place convention center. Karamo had been a self-appointed poll watcher at the convention center, where mail ballots were counted after Election Day in 2020, and claimed to have witnessed fraud there. Her allegations have already been debunked.

Karamo's suit was filed in conjunction with the right-wing groups Election Integrity Fund and Election Integrity Force, which have pursued legal action to decertify the results of the 2020 presidential election, and the America Project, founded by Michael Flynn, former President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, and Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, both of whom were involved in an attempt to have Trump use the military to seize voting equipment after the 2020 election.

Responding to the lawsuit in a statement issued on Nov. 1, the president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, said: "This lawsuit is geared only towards the city of Detroit, a majority African American city. It is designed to stop the effort to mobilize and drive voter participation. It is targeted by its content and racist by its intent. It is intended to disenfranchise black people. There is no evidence of voter fraud. There is no pattern or practice of mail-in ballot abuse. It is simply a lawsuit in search of a violation."

The website Bridge Michigan reported on Oct. 31 that as of the previous week, 35,629 Detroiters had voted by absentee ballot. Absentee voting for any reason is guaranteed by the Michigan Constitution.

Bridge Michigan reported that David Fink, an attorney for lawsuit defendant Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, said: "Blatant racism is blatant racism. This case is to do one thing and one thing only, which is to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in Detroit who mailed in their vote."

The lawsuit echoes attempts to discredit elections and suppress votes in other states. Late last month, the Brennan Center for Social Justice reported on attempts this year in eight Georgia counties to invalidate 65,000 voter registrations. The center reported, "These mass challenges are based on unreliable, unverifiable, and incomplete information and they risk disenfranchising eligible Georgia voters."

According to a report by the Brookings Institution, Michigan has 24 election-denying candidates running for office in 2022, putting it behind only Pennsylvania (37) and Arizona (31) for the largest number in any state.

Over the weekend, Karamo was scheduled to appear at a conference on election integrity in Orlando, Florida, with two other election-denying secretary of state candidates, Jim Marchant of Nevada and Mark Finchem of Arizona.

Benson tweeted on Oct. 27: "My opponent is seeking to have valid votes thrown out & thousands of voices nullified based on nothing but lies. It’s egregious. It won’t succeed. Democracy will prevail."

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is running for reelection against Republican Matt DePerno, warned in a video posted to Twitter on Nov. 1: "The effort to undermine the votes of the residents of the city of Detroit, that's not something that's just going to happen in the future. That's already happening now."

In an opinion piece in USA Today published on Oct. 31, Benson and Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wrote: "It has never been easier to vote in this country, and we're proud that our states have led the way. It's also true that our elections have never been more secure, with verifiable paper ballots, audits and tests of voting machines and more transparency than ever."

In an opinion column published jointly in the Detroit Free Press on Nov. 2 by Justin Roebuck, the Republican clerk of Ottawa County, and Barb Byrum, the Democratic clerk of Ingham County, wrote: "The two of us do not agree on much, politically. We have different philosophies and different visions for our country. But as Republican and Democratic County Clerks in Michigan, there’s one thing we agree on, unequivocally: Our elections are safe, secure and, most importantly — sacred."

Karamo's lawsuit is unlikely to prove successful, although it could serve as a deterrent to voting. Michigan political consultant Adrian Hemond, the CEO of consulting firm Grassroots Midwest, told the American Independent Foundation: "It's hard to escape the impression that this lawsuit is simply aimed at reducing the number of votes from a jurisdiction where her support levels are abysmal. As far as the merits of her lawsuit, Karamo herself has noted that no other prominent Republican candidate has joined her suit. If Republicans thought this would work they'd be in with both feet. The fact that they are not speaks volumes."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.