CLAIM: At the Huntington Place ballot counting site in Detroit after the Aug. 2 election, at least 50% of ballots lacked evidence of signature verification, and large bags and coolers under tables caused a security issue.

THE FACTS: All the ballots counted at the facility had gone through the signature review process and the bags and coolers contained food and belongings for election workers who were not able to leave while ballots were counted. A Detroit convention center that doubled as a ballot counting site became the hub of election falsehoods in November 2020, and following Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary election this week, similar online claims returned in force.

Social media posts and articles on conservative blogs misrepresented what poll watchers, or volunteers allowed to observe the counting process, supposedly witnessed at the Huntington Place ballot counting site, formerly known as the TCF Center. The posts reported that Republican poll watchers observing the counting process “questioned why at least 50% of the ballots were lacking certification that they had been checked for signature verification."

The posts also implied that “duffel bags, coolers, and a variety of large bags” visible underneath tables at the facility could be a security risk since they were next to trays holding absentee ballots. These claims are misleading, according to Daniel Baxter, election administrator for the city of Detroit, and Chris Thomas, a former state elections chief who currently assists with managing Detroit’s absentee counting board. The posts claimed that if absentee ballots had been signature verified, they would have been marked as such in a box printed on the envelopes. They claimed that poll watchers noticed that several of the boxes on the envelopes were unmarked.

However, the reason some of the boxes on the envelopes were unmarked was because a machine that assists in the signature verification process marked the ballots slightly lower than the boxes, Thomas and Baxter both explained. In Detroit, clerks verify most voter signatures on absentee ballots using a mail processing system called Relia-Vote, Baxter said. A machine dates absentee ballot envelopes and photographs the signatures on them so clerks can view the images on a screen, comparing them digitally to signatures in the Qualified Voter File.

If a clerk rejects the signature on a ballot envelope, that ballot does not advance to be counted, Baxter said. If the clerk approves it as a match, the Relia-Vote system marks the envelope with the ballot stub number and the name of the clerk who approved it, and sends it on for tabulation. The Relia-Vote system marks the ballots in the bottom section of the envelopes, Thomas said. That’s why many of the ballot envelopes viewed at the Huntington Place ballot counting site did not have markings where poll watchers expected.

“In all instances, when ballots were processed by the clerks or the inspectors at the central counting board, all signatures were reviewed,” Baxter said.

The posts also hinted that large bags and coolers located underneath tables during ballot counting were a security issue. Baxter and Thomas rejected that claim, explaining that everyone working in the room was constantly watched during the counting process. Baxter and Thomas said many workers at the site brought coolers with food to eat because security protocols required them to remain on the premises for their entire shift, which lasted several hours. Thomas said the many poll watchers and reporters in the facility during the counting process would notice if someone tried to sneak a ballot into or out of the facility. Baxter pointed out that audits of the absentee ballot counting process would also identify such issues.