John James campaign alleges irregularities, lack of integrity in Michigan vote count

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Republican John James' Michigan Senate campaign on Wednesday accused local officials of impropriety, voter suppression, and election interference, as the state continues its counting process to determine which candidate won.

The allegations came as chaos unfolded outside a vote tally room at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit where all mail-in absentee ballots are collected. By Wednesday, officials barred people from coming into the room and had placed cardboard over the windows to obstruct the public's view. 

The TCF Center in downtown Detroit.

The TCF Center in downtown Detroit. (Patrick Colbeck)

Stuart Sandler, a consultant for James’ campaign who was on the ground, told Fox News that the campaign is concerned about there being "a lot of irregularities.” He said James’ victory looked sealed until ballots started pouring in during the middle of the night.

“There were all kinds of chicanery, including ballots that came in reportedly in the middle of the night at 3:30 a.m. – 35,000 ballots that were deceptively brought in,” Sandler said. “There have been a lot of irregularities and a lack of integrity. They’re not letting challengers in, they’re not letting them get food or water. When they do, they’re not letting them come back. There’s all sorts of disruptions to the process.”

James, a businessman and Iraq War veteran, is running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters.

By mid-afternoon, more than 5.3 million ballots had been counted, with about 1% of the expected vote still outstanding. Still, Fox News has projected that Peters will win the race with 49.61% to James' 48.51%.

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Fox News has reached out to Peters' press office with a request for comment. 

When it became apparent that James was in the lead last night, Sandler alleged Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic chairman, brought several busloads of lawyers and activists in TCF, “to disrupt the process.”

“There’s a lack of integrity there. The people of Michigan made their choice and they’ve been trying to disrupt the process. And we’re reviewing our options,” Sandler said.

Brewer, who was observing the Detroit vote counting as a volunteer lawyer, told The Associated Press he'd been at the TCF arena all day and talked with others who had been there the past couple of days. He claimed Republicans had not been denied access.

"This is the best absentee ballot counting operation that Detroit has ever had," he said. "They are counting ballots very efficiently, despite the obstructing tactics of the Republicans."

But a source close to James’ campaign told Fox News that poll challengers “weren’t even able to get close enough to the ballot for the voter rolls to confirm that the ballots are credible, that people didn’t already vote.”

Outside the central counting board at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit.

Outside the central counting board at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit. (Patrick Colbeck)

Michigan’s Secretary of State previously said she was expecting 2.5 million absentee ballots. By Wednesday morning, however, that total -- the source alleged -- increased to 5.6 million, with the majority going up in places like Detroit.  

“And then the Wayne County Clerk (Cathy M. Garrett) … was on CNN this morning, and she didn’t know how many votes were left in Wayne County, which is where Detroit is,” the source claimed. “(Garrett) said multiple different low numbers and CNN even called her out on it.”

The source went on to claim that state election officials have "no idea" what's happening and said they're disenfranchising Republican voters in Detroit." 

Former State Sen Patrick Colbeck, who is a registered poll watcher and was on the scene, told Fox News that what he witnessed amounted to “obfuscation and a complete lack of transparency.”

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“We’re being expressly denied the access to the ballot count area, at the most critical time. And you know, it’s very telling,” Colbeck said.

“I can tell you right now, it’s not a free and fair election, and I’ve been watching this for quite a while. So get the word out. [Democrats] are attempting to steal the election, and the best way to go off and fight back on this is to let people know what’s happening.”

Fox News on Wednesday projected that former Vice President Joe Biden has won the state of Michigan, leaving him with just one major swing state to win before he obtains the necessary 270 votes to claim the White House.

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Fox News' Sam Dorman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.