On August 2, 2020, Braden Giacobazzi, an Independent poll challenger, was thrown out of the absentee counting center in Detroit by “men in black” for allegedly asking too many questions, including why one of the monitors used to process the ballots had an icon in the corner that indicated it was online.
Here is Mr. Giacobazzi’s incredible story…
I was a poll challenger at TCF.
Throughout the night, I was routinely told to step away from the table and that I was only allowed to stand next to the monitor near station one at the corner of the tables. I was also told that the law doesn’t matter in this room, only their rules. This is all untrue and illegal. It is deceptive, restrictive, and obstructive to the process, which violates Michigan Election Law Act 116 of 1954, 168.730, 168.731, 168.733(3,4), and 168.734.
One of my first challenges of the night came at a counting table near the middle/back of the room. I had checked on it multiple times over multiple hours during the first and second shifts to see that it was attached to the internet. Nobody seemed to notice or care about this. Finally, when I flagged down a supervisor and asked her to hover the mouse over the wifi symbol in the task monitor, she said she wasn’t allowed to do that and went to grab someone else. That person also said they didn’t think they were allowed to do that and grabbed someone even higher up the chain. Eventually, a man who identified himself as Anthony Miller came to the table and hovered the mouse over the wifi image. It then read “Internet Connection” because it was attached to the internet during the counting process all day since at least the time I had arrived. Multiple people witnessed the wifi signal image and the change to airplane mode by Anthony Miller.
This was a fine resolution to my concern. However, after making this challenge, it was clear that I was being shadowed by Democrat challengers and men in black.
I recall that a ballot at the scanning station did not register in the poll book. So, I stepped in to see if I could note anything unique about the envelope and monitor the process. I was immediately told I had to stand 6 feet back. The men in black appeared and started telling me falsehoods about how I wasn’t allowed to do anything but look at the monitor because everything was on the monitor. I said to them that wasn’t true and that, in this specific case, the ballot literally was not showing up on the monitor, and that was the specific reason for the challenge. I also told them it wasn’t even me that initiated the challenge. They didn’t care. They just kept trying to distract me from my job by insisting that I was trying to intimidate the workers at the table by trying to see the election materials, as is my duty under the law as a challenger.
After moments like this, I often stepped away from the table and walked around to see if things would cool off, and I could return to my duties. But, It seemed like even more men in black were around me whenever I would go back to any table later.
In addition, after I made my first challenge, Democrat Party challengers began shadowing me at any table I went to, as well. They appeared not to care what was happening at the tables, only what I was doing. Then, large men dressed in black would show up and shadow me as well. I was not breaking any laws and was following all legal protocols as defined by the law and not being at all rude or meanspirited to the poll workers. I was never belligerent or abusive to anyone and wasn’t initiating conversation intentionally with anyone at the table except the supervisor. Sometimes, workers would ask what I was doing, and I would always say something like, “I am just observing, not trying to be a pest, but I can’t talk to you.” Things seemed to be fine. It wasn’t until men in black showed up that any table seemed to begin to have a problem with me. These men always demanded my credentials and information but refused to give me any information. When I would ask who they were (they had no lanyards or name tags), most of them would scoff and then get another one of them to try to intimidate me further and make accusations and threats toward me about being kicked out or how I needed to be 6 feet away from the table. None of them had any problem standing within 2 or 3 feet of me in order to try and raise my blood pressure. When it didn’t work, they would continue to distract me with redundant conversation over and over again and call more people over. This happened more and more throughout the night as it got later. In addition, when I would tell them I needed to see a process that wasn’t visible from the computer screen, one might tell me I had to stay there, while another would tell me to go to the other side of the table, only to have another person tell me I couldn’t be there, either and had to go back to the computer, ping-ponging me around to agitate me and cause a visual scene that could be interpreted poorly.
Around 11 pm, as I was walking back to the counting table, I was stopped by a man with dreadlocks who had no identifying markings on his clothing or lanyard. He demanded to know who I was, asked for my credentials, and seemed to insist that I could not ever leave one table throughout the night. This is also not true since I was a roving challenger, and there were only a handful of challengers for the entire room of 130 or so tables. I gently asked him who he was, and he scoffed at that and called over another larger man in black. He was impeding me from doing my job because my credentials were clearly visible, and I was not breaking any laws, so I continued to monitor the table. I cannot recall if the man he called to the table had an ICU on his shirt or not, but he was dressed in black and asked for my credentials. When he came over, I told him I was with MC4EI and said my name was Braden and asked who he was. He refused to tell me, and my answers to him didn’t seem to be enough for him, so he demanded that I step away from the table. I protested politely verbally and cited the law since I was acting fully within the capacity of a legal poll challenger. But he continued to insist, so I left the table with him. which made it impossible for me to do my job and much easier for him to surround me with more of his guys and kick me out. He kept asking me for more credentials, and I kept showing him my badge, which had all my information on it. He didn’t seem to want to listen to me or view the badge when I offered it to him. He kept asking me who I was with, and I said MC4EI multiple times and showed him the badge, and then he said I was going to be removed. By now, numerous large men in black were surrounding me despite the fact that no verbal or physical altercation had occurred. No one had even raised their voice. Then, I was gripped and assaulted by multiple large men who forcibly removed me without allowing me to collect my belongings at the front of the room. The room cheered and clapped and laughed and jeered. I repeatedly asked the men in black what law I broke, and they couldn’t cite a single one.
As the night went on, I could not find any lawyers to bring to the table; I am not sure we had any left. This may have been what emboldened them to violate my rights so often as a challenger later in the evening. In the beginning, I didn’t seem to have an issue with anyone. In addition, as I would stand at the tables, men in black would mutter to each other and those around them from behind me about how they were about to kick me out even though I was just standing there and not intimidating anyone or touching anything. It was very clear that they had all come to an agreement that I was a mark, and they were going to work collectively to eliminate me from the room because new men in black seemed to keep showing up and hovering.
Late in the evening, when I was being harassed by the men in black and once again explaining to them that everything I was doing was within the duties of a challenger and the law, I said I would find a lawyer to confirm this to them, and they said they didn’t care about anything a lawyer says. I left and went to go find a lawyer and searched around the entire room, and asked my colleagues, but we couldn’t see any, so I eventually went back to monitoring tables. When I returned, it seemed that these nameless, unaccountable men in black were more emboldened than they had been before to intimidate me.
At multiple times throughout the night, when I would cite Michigan Election Law in the context of a situation, including during this final moment, I was told that the law didn’t matter in here. Only their rules mattered and the feelings of the people at the table. I had on a lanyard that cited the specific laws that entitled poll challengers to explicitly do what I was doing multiple times. And the response was always the same: I don’t care about the law; All that matters here are my rules. At one point, when I explained a law to one of these men who was being deceptive and obstructing me, I was told to think more about the feelings of the people at the table rather than the law and my duties. I responded by saying I have nothing but respect for the people sitting at these tables all day, and I believe they have respect for me because I am here all day on my feet, too. We are all just doing our jobs. One of them responded that I wouldn’t be there much longer.
Throughout the night, there were errors in red that would pop up on the poll book screen that were simply being dismissed. I asked the table supervisors what this meant, and one of them said, “I don’t know. I was just told to push it through when it happens.” One of these errors that I was able to write down read like this:
“Absentee Ballot [xxxxxxxx] sent by the clerk – voter must surrender ballot or submit an affidavit.” This may very well be just fine; I don’t know. But it seems bizarre that table supervisors are being told to let countless ballots with such an error pass without even understanding why it is fine.
To be clear, I think most, if not all, of the table workers I encountered were just doing their jobs as they were told to do them. They seemed like fine people as I stood around. But they were clearly told to act in ways that are not in compliance with Michigan law and most probably don’t realize it. That is why I would cite the law to them whenever there was an issue. What is worrisome are the large men in black who are clearly hired to intimidate poll challengers for whatever reason they please. They are lawless; they admit that they are lawless, and they don’t care because they know they are unaccountable.
Watch Braden asking the Detroit Police Officer to explain why he’s agreed to remove him from the counting room by a group of large men wearing black T-shirts and no other form of identification other than “ICU” written in large white block letters across their chests.
I asked one of the arrogant, non-credentialed, yet powerful ICU members to find his supervisor so I could speak with him and ask why Braden was kicked out.
The ICU supervisor refused to talk to me. Instead, one of the top election officials in the City of Detroit, Daniel Baxter, spoke with me and told me that Mr. Giacobazzi was disrespectful to the workers. I had been watching Braden since he informed me about one hour before he was kicked out that the ICU thugs were following him around and threatening him under their breath ever since he pointed out that one of the monitors for a computer at a counting board was online.
Yesterday, during a hearing with Chief Judge Timothy Kenny of Michigan’s 3rd Circuit Court regarding signature verification issues, drop box security, and other issues plaguing the City of Detroit, of which Braden Giacobazzi is a Plaintiff, Attorney Dan Hartman asked the Director of Detroit Elections, Daniel Baxter, about the curious new security group. Hartman was referring, of course, to the burly men who looked like bouncers working at a local bar and appeared to be working as the new de facto security force at the Huntington Center (formerly the TCF Center).
“Who is the agency that wears the ICU? Who are they employed by?” Hartman asked.
“They’re poll workers,” Baxter replied.
Hartman asked him to clarify for the record, “They’re poll workers?”
Baxter confirmed, “Yes.”
“And do they function and security?” Mr. Hartman asked.
“Ah, yes—They just monitor to ensure everything goes well—Uh, they partner with our supervisory staff.” Daniel Baxter answered as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have an uncredentialed, unidentified group of men who look like bouncers roaming around an absentee counting room and threatening and intimidating lawful poll challengers.
“Okay, so they’re poll workers—so are they would be a Detroit employee?” Hartman asked.
“No—they’re volunteers,” Baxter replied.
There are several issues with Mr. Baxter’s admission that this large mob of uncredentialed “security/poll workers” roaming the counting center, not the least of which, according to election law, both political parties must be equally represented when hiring poll workers. It’s almost like Mr. Baxter, who was likely taken off guard by the question, realized the issue he had just created when he identified them as “poll workers” and when Mr. Hartman asked him if they were employed by the City of Detroit, he quickly said they were also “volunteers.”