Election officials restricted poll watchers from entering the convention center to enforce capacity limits and due to public health concerns.
Partisan poll watchers are designated by a political party or campaign to observe the counting process and report any concerns they may have. According to The Washington Post, the TCF Center, a convention center in Detroit, had become a gathering spot for activists from both parties.
Some 134 counting boards were set up, and each party was allowed one poll watcher per board, City Clerk Janice Winfrey told The Associated Press. Lawrence Garcia, a city attorney for Detroit, told The Post that the center’s sign-in book by midafternoon showed that more than 250 Democrats and 225 Republicans were inside. Elections officials capped the number who could go inside due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and new volunteers were allowed to enter only to replace members of their own party. When election workers told GOP challengers the party had hit its limit, some began shouting about the unfair process and lack of transparency and also chanted, "Stop the count!"
City police officers locked the doors as chaos ensued and restricted entries. Election challengers then proceeded to knock on the windows and doors, looking into the rooms where ballots were being counted, and election workers covered some of the glass with cardboard and poster board, reported The Detroit News. As staff members and election officials tried to control the chaos and enforce capacity limits, Republican challengers and supporters sought to halt the counting of ballots alleging poll watchers were deliberately being kept too far away and that the counting process was fraudulent.
In its lawsuit, Trump's campaign alleged that it had been denied access to "numerous counting locations" to observe the process ". The lawsuit’s plaintiffs were Trump’s reelection campaign, and a Michigan voter whom the complaint said was a trained election challenger. Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, defended the state’s process, The Post reported.
“Michigan’s elections have been conducted transparently, with access provided for both political parties and the public, and using a robust system of checks and balances to ensure that all ballots are counted fairly and accurately,” Nessel said.
On Nov 13, a Michigan judge rejected another lawsuit by supporters of Trump seeking to block certification of the election results in Detroit and surrounding Wayne County, ruling that claims of widespread fraud were groundless.
On Nov 19, the Trump campaign dropped its own federal suit in Michigan that sought to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots. On Nov 23, Michigan election officials certified Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state.