Germany’s far-right AfD files lawsuits to avoid security service surveillance – POLITICO

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has filed two lawsuits aimed at averting surveillance by the country’s domestic security service, a spokesman at the Cologne administrative court told POLITICO.

The party is arguing such a move by the authorities would violate its constitutional right to equal opportunity, fearing that falling under surveillance would impair its chances in this year’s elections, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung and German public broadcasters WDR and NDR, which first reported on the lawsuits Friday.

Multiple media outlets reported this week that the Cologne-based Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) — Germany’s domestic security service — is preparing to treat the entire AfD as a so-called “suspected case” over concerns that the influence of extreme forces within the party is growing.

This would allow security services to surveil the party — including hiring informants and, with parliamentary approval, even monitor the party’s communications.

The AfD’s extreme-right “Flügel” (“wing”) faction came under surveillance in 2019. The Flügel was dissolved last year after the BfV concluded it was a “proven extremist endeavor,” but the security service has since warned of a growing influence of the Flügel’s former members within the party and there are doubts as to what degree the group continues to operate.

The AfD has hit back at such statements. “It is completely obvious that the AfD does not give the [BfV] the slightest reason to classify it as a suspected case,” party chairman Jörg Meuthen, an MEP, told German media.

The Cologne administrative court’s spokesman said one of the two lawsuits filed on Thursday “is about the upgrading of the entire party” to surveillance status, while the other was “about the fact that, in the AfD’s view, the [BfV] is overestimating the number of members who belonged to the so-called Flügel.”

The party’s youth organization Junge Alternative is already under observation as a “suspected case,” a label for organizations that are not or not yet considered unambiguously extremist but where there are significant grounds for suspicion of “extremist endeavor.”

The AfD itself is currently treated as a “case for investigation,” the mildest of the BfV’s three categories. Upgrading the party to a “suspected case,” the second tier, could send a stark signal to voters in Germany’s so-called Superwahljahr, a year of six regional elections plus the general election in September.

The AfD considers the risk of surveillance imminent, according to SZ, WDR and NDR. As a result, the party filed an emergency appeal at the court in Cologne.

“I assume that a decision will be made sometime next week,” the court’s spokesman said.

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A Covid-19 Relief Fund Was Only for Black Residents. Then Came the Lawsuits.

[To read more stories on race from The New York Times, sign up here for our Race/Related newsletter.]

Black civic leaders in Oregon heard the alarm bells early in the pandemic.

Data and anecdotes around the country suggested that the coronavirus was disproportionately killing Black people. Locally, Black business owners had begun fretting about their livelihoods, as stay-at-home orders and various other measures were put into place. Many did not have valuable houses they could tap for capital, and requests for government assistance had gone nowhere.

After convening several virtual meetings, the civic leaders proposed a bold and novel solution that state lawmakers approved in July. The state would earmark $62 million of its $1.4 billion in federal Covid-19 relief money to provide grants to Black residents, business owners and community organizations enduring pandemic-related hardships.

“It was finally being honest: This is who needs this support right now,” said Lew Frederick, a state senator who is Black.

But now millions of dollars in grants are on hold after one Mexican-American and two white business owners sued the state, arguing that the fund for Black residents discriminated against them.

The battle in Oregon is the latest legal skirmish in the nation’s decades-long battle over affirmative action, and comes in a year in which the pandemic has starkly exposed the socioeconomic and health disparities that African-Americans face. It has unfolded, too, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, with institutions across America — from corporations to city councils — acknowledging systemic racism, and activists demanding that meaningful steps be taken to undo racial inequities.

Politicians, social scientists and jurists have long clashed over how far the government and institutions should go to repair the harm caused by racial discrimination — and the extent to which past racism should influence today’s decisions. In creating the Oregon Cares Fund, lawmakers took the rare step of explicitly naming a single racial group as the beneficiary, arguing that Black residents have been subjected to unique discrimination that put them at a disadvantage during the pandemic.

Over the decades, various remedies to address discrimination have been met with legal challenges. Supreme Court rulings have established that race-based policies are constitutional only if they achieve a compelling governmental interest and are narrowly tailored to do so. The court has most notably allowed race to be used as a factor in college admissions, finding that diversity was a compelling reason. But the court in recent decades has also sided against one of the original rationales for affirmative action policies — to undo past discrimination and its lingering effect.

You have to show that there’s this really close nexus between why you’re using race and the outcome you’re seeking,” said Melissa Murray, a professor of law at New York University. “And I think here it’s going to be a real question as to whether funding just Black businesses through this Cares fund is actually the only way that you could address the problems that Black Oregonians have experienced during this particular period.”

In Oregon, the stakes are dire. Nearly $50 million worth of grants have been awarded, but a court has frozen $8.8 million, the remaining amount minus administrative costs, until the litigation is resolved, a process that could take years.

With the Dec. 31 deadline having passed for states to spend their CARES Act funds or return what remains to the federal government, the litigation could mean the money is lost for good. The fund’s administrators say they hope the Treasury Department grants them an extension for disbursing the money.

Oregon’s long history of anti-Black racism has fueled much of the advocacy for the state’s fund. And while other racial groups have said they supported it, critics have argued that Black people are not the only ones who have faced discrimination in the state.

Some Black residents, who make up about 2 percent of the state’s population, said that argument was a distraction.

“As a state, as a country, it is unusual for us to provide adequate resources to Black people,” said Nkenge Harmon Johnson, the president and chief executive of the Urban League of Portland. “For some folks, it’s shocking, it’s distasteful.”

But Edward Blum, a white conservative activist whose organization, Project on Fair Representation, is underwriting one of two lawsuits challenging the fund, said the opposition was about preventing racial exclusion.

“It is like, in the employment arena, going to apply for a job and seeing a sign on the employment office that reads, ‘No Asians need apply,’” said Mr. Blum, who has led efforts to challenge race-based admissions policies at universities, including a high-profile case against Harvard. “Your race and your ethnicity should not be used to help you or harm you in your life’s endeavors.”

Walter Leja, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, said he might be on the verge of laying off employees from Dynamic Service Fire and Security, the small electrical services company he started in Salem in 2007, if he did not receive relief money soon. An earlier loan of about $20,000 from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, he said, was just enough to cover payroll for about two months.

Mr. Leja, who is 64 and white, said he could not say whether historic discrimination put Black business owners at a disadvantage. But a particular fund, he said, was not warranted.

“It’s discriminatory,” he said. “It’s locking up a bunch of funds that can only be used by Black businesses when there’s a ton of other businesses out there that need access to those funds. It’s not a white or Black thing. It’s an everybody thing.”

That lawsuit — a class-action case led by Mr. Leja and the white owner of a logging company, Great Northern Resources, based in the city of John Day — is one of two that challenges the fund. The other, underwritten by the Center for Individual Rights, a nonprofit law firm advocating limited government, involves a Mexican-American owner of the Revolucion Coffee House, in Portland, who has claimed discrimination.

Many of today’s economic and health disparities stem from past policies and practices that were explicitly racist, some social scientists say, arguing that measures aimed at particular races were necessary to undo the damage. But courts have set a high bar for allowing the clear use of race in legislation. To get around the legal hurdles, policymakers tend to rely on proxies for race — like ZIP codes and socioeconomic status — when designing measures they hope will benefit marginalized racial groups.

But Akasha Lawrence Spence, a state representative, said subtle measures were not enough for the current crisis. Specifically targeting Black Oregonians for relief was an important step in forcing people to grasp the effects of racism, she added.

“This fund says that we understand that for no other reason than the color of your skin, you have been restricted and prohibited from accessing the tools to economically mobilize,” she said. “For that reason, we’re not going to create any veiled language. We as the Black community are tired of that.”

Supporters of the fund argued that the $62 million accounted for about 4.5 percent of what the state received, leaving plenty for residents who are not Black. They also noted that other Covid-19-related funds were tailored in a way that allowed them to almost exclusively benefit particular racial or ethnic groups — a $10 million fund created by the state that largely benefits undocumented Latino immigrants and one created by Portland officials to aid a district of largely Asian-owned businesses.

Designing measures in that way to target Black residents would be difficult and fail to have a significant impact, they said.

Oregon’s history of racism predates its statehood. As a territory in 1844, it passed a law banning African-Americans from settling there.

The state’s Black population ballooned in the 1940s as many Southerners migrated West for jobs in the wartime industries. Like in many other parts of the country, the new Black settlers in Oregon were restricted to certain areas. In 1990, 80 percent of the state’s Black population was confined to two ZIP codes in Northeast Portland, according to Stephen Green, a Portland native and former banker.

Banks and other investors largely avoided doing business in those communities. Residents were also displaced when parts of those neighborhoods were razed at different times to build a highway, a sports arena and a hospital.

That history robbed many African-Americans of opportunities to build wealth, historians say, a legacy that continues. The racial wealth gap in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, is larger now than it was 40 years ago, with Black residents holding fewer assets than other racial groups.

In 2019, Black Oregonians received four of the 984 loans that the Small Business Administration issued statewide, according to The Portland Business Journal.

Without traditional banking relationships, Black business owners often have had to reach into their own pockets or seek other avenues to finance start-up costs, civic leaders said. That left many unable to get pandemic relief loans offered by the federal government because the loans required going through lending institutions.

Early in the pandemic, various indicators appeared to show that Black businesses were suffering more severely than others. A Stanford University study found that the number of Black business owners nationwide dropped by 41 percent from February to April, compared with a 32 percent decrease for Latinos, 26 percent for Asians and 17 percent for white owners.

Lawyers defending the Oregon Cares Fund have argued that the state has a duty to ensure that the distribution of Covid-19 relief funds does not perpetuate the disparities Black residents face. That means targeting Black residents for relief because other efforts to address inequality have failed, said Janelle Bynum, a state representative who is Black.

“Without that intentionality, without them actually caring that the money flows through our communities, they’ll never have to do anything to change the status quo,” she said. “I’m not OK with that.”

But some legal scholars and a lawyer for the State Legislature said the fund could violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection guarantees. They said the state had failed to provide a clear link between specific discrimination and the need to earmark a pot of relief money intended only for Black residents.

Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, was dubious of the 14th Amendment claims. About a month after the amendment passed Congress in 1866, those same politicians reauthorized the Freedmen’s Bureau, an agency meant to primarily help formerly enslaved African-Americans, he said.

“The idea that, in this case, a lumber company could use the 14th Amendment as a weapon to prevent the descendants of slaves from receiving an economic benefit in a time of disaster is utterly inconsistent with the historical context,” Mr. Cunningham said.

In Portland, Joy Mack said the pandemic rekindled the stress she felt when she opened the Jayah Rose Salon in 2008. She and her husband, an engineer, are both Black and solidly middle class. But after visiting more than 10 lending institutions to try to get start-up funding, she received only two loans, she said. One of the lenders kept asking for more financial information, so they eventually walked away from the relationship.

In trying to keep her hair salon afloat amid the pandemic, Ms. Mack, 45, said she applied for a forgivable federal government loan but was turned down because she had about $5,000 in tax debt. She got a $5,000 grant from the city and a $10,000 disaster loan from the federal government. She also has had to take out lines of credit.

Ms. Mack eventually received a grant from the Oregon Cares Fund. Although she would not say how much she received, she said it saved her from having to close down under the weight of tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

“Honestly,” she said, “that is what just helped us get over that Covid hump.”

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Win, lose or settle: Facebook lawsuits will take years to resolve

December 10, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook, faced with two major antitrust lawsuits, could be forced to breakup, settle with changes to its business, or it could prove its government challengers wrong and win in court, antitrust experts said.

The Federal Trade Commission and a major coalition of states are asking that Facebook be forced to sell WhatsApp and Instagram, saying it used a “buy or bury” strategy to snap up rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay.


If the government wins, the judge could rule Facebook must divest its photo sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp.

“At first blush, it’s a very strong case on the merits. The remedy is tough, because breakup is an unusual remedy, but it certainly may be merited here,” said Sam Weinstein, who teaches at Cardozo Law.

While a “breakup remedy” is rare, Weinstein said, “this is a case where it’s possible, I’d say, and maybe even likely.” He noted the Facebook case contained damning evidence from the company’s own documents, unlike the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Google.

Although breakup is not common, even on a small scale, in 2014 the Justice Department sued BazaarVoice after it bought PowerReviews and forced the deal between the consumer review sites to be undone. Most famously it forced the breakup of the telephone company ATT in 1982.

President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, which did not respond to a request for comment, would also likely support the lawsuit. FTC commissioners voted 3-2 to file its lawsuit with two of the three votes in favor coming from Democrats.


One difficulty the FTC will face is that it cleared Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 — a point Facebook made in its response to the lawsuits.

“It’s very difficult to unwind a consummated merger that’s been in place for years,” said Seth Bloom of Bloom Strategic Counsel. “A court would be very reluctant to unwind the merger.”

Further, Bloom said the argument in the complaint that Facebook required software developers on its platform to refrain from competing with Facebook was potentially outdated and certainly easy to resolve.

The complaint said: “Specifically, between 2011 and 2018, Facebook made Facebook Platform, including certain commercially significant APIs, available to developers only on the condition that their apps neither competed with Facebook … nor promoted competitors.”

In a blog post, Facebook argued that the restrictions were standard in the industry.

“Companies are allowed to choose their business partners, and it gives platforms comfort that they can open access to other developers without that access being exploited unfairly,” wrote Facebook General Counsel Jennifer Newstead.

Facebook also believes it can prevail in court.

Newstead said the company continues “to operate in a highly competitive space.

“We look forward to our day in court, when we’re confident the evidence will show that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp belong together, competing on the merits with great products,” she said.


With no criminal charges in the lawsuit there is no incentive for Facebook to cut a deal, argues George Hay, who teaches antitrust at Cornell University law school. He also predicted the case would take years of litigation.

“It’s not an obvious winner,” he said of the government’s arguments. “Everything that Facebook does is out in the open and it’s been out in the open for 15 years. They’ve never done anything without consulting with teams of antitrust lawyers.”

Still, Facebook agreed last year to pay $5 billion to resolve an FTC investigation into its privacy practices.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Katie Paul; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

The post Win, lose or settle: Facebook lawsuits will take years to resolve first appeared on One America News Network.

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Facebook faces TWO antitrust lawsuits, as FTC and 48 US states & territories mount parallel challenges — RT USA News

The Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of almost all state attorneys-general have sued Facebook for violation of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts over its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram.

The FTC lawsuit was announced on Wednesday, as New York AG Letitia James made public that 47 of her colleagues from 45 states – as well as the District of Columbia and Guam – were launching a separate antitrust challenge before a DC federal court.

Any efforts to “stifle competition, hurt small business, reduce innovation and creativity, cut privacy protections, will be met with the full force of our offices,” James told reporters.

The lawsuit managed to unite Democrats and Republicans who are currently at odds over the US presidential election. Only four states – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota – have not signed on to the effort led by James, a Democrat.

Also on
In world first, Australia moves to force Google & Facebook to pay local news outlets for content

Plaintiffs accused Facebook of having “monopoly power in the personal social networking market” in the US over the past decade, and illegally maintaining it by “deploying a buy-or-bury strategy that thwarts competition and harms both users and advertisers.” 


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Trump And The GOP Have Now Lost 50 Post-Election Lawsuits


The Trump campaign and its Republican allies have officially lost or withdrawn 50 post-election lawsuits, and emerged victorious in only one, according to a tally kept by Democratic Party attorney Marc Elias, underscoring the extent to which President Donald Trump and the GOP’s efforts to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the courts has overwhelmingly failed to affect the election results.

Key Facts

The 50-case milestone was reached Tuesday as a state court in Georgia dismissed a Republican-led lawsuit, and the count includes both cases that courts have struck down and that the GOP plaintiffs have chosen to withdraw, such as an Arizona lawsuit that the Trump campaign backed down from because it would not affect enough ballots to change the election outcome.

The Trump campaign and GOP’s only win struck down an extended deadline the Pennsylvania secretary of state set for voters to cure mail-in ballots that were missing proof of identification, and likely only affected a small number of mail-in ballots.

Among the Trump campaign’s more notable losses in court thus far are the campaign’s failed lawsuit attempting to overturn Pennsylvania’s election results, which a Trump-appointed appeals court judge said was “light on facts” and “[had] no merit,” and a Nevada court that found the campaign had “no credible or reliable evidence” proving voter fraud.

Courts have also repeatedly struck down the campaign’s allegations claiming their election observers were not able to properly observe the vote counting process, and while one Pennsylvania court did grant the campaign a win by ordering that poll watchers can move closer to election workers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court later overturned the ruling.

In addition to the Trump campaign, GOP allies including state lawmakers, Republican Party officials and former Trump legal advisor Sidney Powell have also brought dozens of entirely unsuccessful lawsuits, and a lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers was rejected Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The legal campaign is expected to continue until the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14—or potentially until January—but a “safe harbor” deadline midnight Tuesday, which ensures certified results submitted by that date can’t be challenged by Congress, will make it harder for outstanding cases to succeed.

What To Watch For

The Trump campaign and GOP still have a number of outstanding legal challenges ahead of the Dec. 14 Electoral College date, including recent lawsuits Trump has filed in both federal and state court in Wisconsin, which will be heard in court Thursday, and two cases led by Powell in Wisconsin and Arizona. (Powell’s other two cases in Michigan and Georgia have already failed, but will likely be appealed.) The campaign and other GOP plaintiffs have also appealed a number of rulings that have already failed and are included in Elias’ tally, including Trump campaign cases in Nevada and Michigan, which are unlikely to be overturned. Outstanding cases that haven’t been decided by the safe harbor deadline will face a higher level of scrutiny, making it even less likely that they’ll succeed than the litigation that’s already been dismissed. Under federal law, certified election results submitted by Tuesday are protected from being challenged by Congress, and election experts say there’s very little chance judges will change any election results after the deadline. “The doors close significantly after the safe harbor deadline passes,” Rebecca Green, codirector of William & Mary Law School’s Election Law Program, told BuzzFeed News.

Surprising Fact

While the Trump campaign has frequently alleged voter fraud outside of court, with the exception of the Nevada lawsuit, the campaign has largely backed away from arguing voter fraud in court, with attorney Rudy Giuliani even telling a judge in a Pennsylvania hearing, “This is not a fraud case.”

Key Background

Trump and his allies launched a large-scale legal effort aimed at overturning Biden’s battleground state wins in the wake of Election Day, which largely challenged specific mail-in voting rules and alleged issues with the vote counting process, particularly in Democratic-leaning counties. Most lawsuits either sought to have specific categories of ballots thrown out or audited, or attempted to block states from certifying their election results entirely. Election law experts have long viewed the legal strategy as meritless and deeply unlikely to succeed, however, and many of the lawsuits have been plagued by errors, including naming plaintiffs who haven’t agreed to sign onto a lawsuit and filing litigation in the incorrect court. As the campaign’s lawsuits have flailed in the courts, the Trump campaign has also attempted to persuade GOP-led state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters by appointing their own electors, but this strategy has also failed.

Further Reading

The ‘Safe Harbor’ Deadline For Election Results Has Arrived: Here’s What That Means For Trump’s Lawsuits (Forbes)

Supreme Court Shuts Down Pennsylvania GOP Attempt To Overturn Election (Forbes)

‘The People Have Spoken’: Sidney Powell’s Michigan Lawsuit Gets Shut Down In Court (Forbes)

Trump Campaign Has ‘No Credible Or Reliable Evidence’ Proving Voter Fraud, Nevada Court Rules (Forbes)

Here’s How The Trump Campaign Is Backing Off From Its Voting Conspiracy Theories In Court (Forbes)

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Trump lawsuits on voter fraud in 2020 election needed these Americans

Alexandra Seely, a 27-year-old dental hygienist, had never been in court except to deal with a traffic ticket. Yet days after the presidential election, her name was near the top of a lawsuit alleging widespread vote fraud in Michigan – a lawsuit designed to alter the result of a presidential election.

In a handwritten affidavit, and during a subsequent interview with USA TODAY, Seely described what she saw the day after the election as she monitored vote counting in Detroit as a Republican challenger.

Seely said she’s convinced not just that there was vote fraud in Wayne County but that an entire election was stolen – despite conclusions to the contrary by judges across the country, intelligence officials, President Donald Trump’s attorney general, independent observers and election supervisors in states red and blue.

Barr contradicts Trump: Attorney General Barr says DOJ has found no evidence of fraud to alter election outcome

Road show: Rudy Giuliani’s road trip to push claims of election fraud

That Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 4, election workers in a cavernous room at the TCF Center unloaded absentee ballots and fed them into machines. As more ballots were counted, Trump’s lead in Michigan shrank. Things were getting tense.

Detroit elections employees examine election results on their phones as they count absentee ballots at the TCF Center on Nov. 4.
Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Seely said she was trying to monitor the count at Table 23. Ballots were brought out in nylon roller bags. A worker would pull one out and scan it, announcing the voter’s name and ballot number. When things matched, the ballot would go into a stack to be tallied.

Seely said she challenged about 10 votes, raising her hand when something “wasn’t right.” One person appeared to have voted twice, she said. At least five ballots wouldn’t scan.

Challenged ballots were supposed to be set aside, Seely said, but inspectors took them away and refused to register her objections on a log, instead claiming they took notes on a computer. At one point, she said, an election worker profanely confronted her for getting too close.

In the days after the election, Trump’s allies and attorneys mobilized to stop the counting, delay certification of the results and challenge the legitimacy of ballots. People such as Seely provided statements about what they saw, heard and suspected. These statements were the foundation upon which the lawsuits were built.

In Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia – all swing states – they swore they had witnessed poll workers filling out blank ballots, changing votes, processing and backdating flawed ballots, delivering suspicious trunks to counting rooms, and blocking, ignoring or intimidating GOP monitors.

Many of those allegations crumbled under scrutiny. Their beliefs have not.

‘They said there was a bunch of stuff going on’

Those who submitted statements under penalty of perjury reflect a cross section of America: blue- and white-collar workers, homemakers, retirees, students, military personnel. Their statements generally seem sincere and straightforward.

Jeffrey Gorman, 65, a retired airline pilot from Garden City, Michigan, said he raced to serve as a challenger in the TCF Center in Detroit after getting an email from Republican friends.

“They said there was a bunch of stuff going on,” he said, “and all of a sudden these votes showed up in the middle of the night.”

Joe Biden supporter Angelo Austin, and Trump supporter C.L. Bryant argue outside the central counting board at the TCF Center in Detroit on Nov. 5.

Joe Biden supporter Angelo Austin, and Trump supporter C.L. Bryant argue outside the central counting board at the TCF Center in Detroit on Nov. 5.
David Goldman, AP

Taken together, their statements gave the impression of a dirty election nationwide. Judges across the country have been unmoved.

The Trump campaign and its allies have lost 42 lawsuits and won one that affected a few dozen votes, according to a running tally by Marc Elias, a Democratic elections expert and founder of Democracy Docket. At least eight more cases are pending. 

But in the days after the election false narratives, rumors and claims about suspicious events echoed through an insular world of right-wing websites, news outlets and social media influencers. Among them were a few examples of actual wrongdoing or human error – a “stitching together of real, isolated incidents,” as Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, described it. 

Ibrahim Reyes, a Miami attorney who drove to Atlanta to observe the Georgia recount
Many people do what’s easier, which is perhaps to post a comment on social media. But that doesn’t help. We actually have to take action and get involved as American citizens.

Miami attorney Ibrahim Reyes, a Republican, drove 660 miles to Atlanta because he felt compelled to see the Georgia recount in person – and to prevent fraudulent ballots from being counted. 

“Many people do what’s easier, which is perhaps to post a comment on social media,” Reyes said. “But that doesn’t help. We actually have to take action and get involved as American citizens.” 

Leading up to Election Day, Trump’s campaign called for an “army” to watch over the voting. These were the foot soldiers.

Recruited to challenge ballots in Detroit

Andrew Sitto, a 26-year-old college business student from West Bloomfield, Michigan, couldn’t believe the chaos as he entered the TCF Center as a Republican challenger on election night.

“The room was jam-packed,” he said. “It looked like the stock exchange on the very worst day.”

Poll workers count absentee ballots for the city of Detroit at the TCF Center Nov. 3.

Poll workers count absentee ballots for the city of Detroit at the TCF Center Nov. 3.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

Sitto, the son of Iraqi immigrants, said he’s active in politics because he lost two uncles in the war and a third to Islamic State militants. He described himself as a staunch Trump supporter, in part because of the president’s focus on Iraq. 

As the election neared, Sitto said, he got on a GOP email list and was recruited to do door-knocking for Trump. Later he got a message asking if he’d serve as a challenger.

Sitto arrived at the counting hall around 9:30 p.m. Nov. 3, ready for a long night. His 20-minute training consisted of a Trump victory video and another instructing him how and what to challenge.

He was assigned to watch workers process military absentee votes, which must be transferred to standard ballots. About 4:30 a.m., he said, a buddy noticed a van unloading at the dock. Sitto said he watched as ballots were removed from boxes. Later, Sitto said, he saw workers filling out blank ballots. 

“I eyewitnessed an employee taking a pen and filling out the D (Democrat) straight ticket in the bubbles,” he said. He said he tried to raise challenges the five times he saw it, but he was ignored. 

Michigan is among several states that allow voters to choose all the candidates from a political party.

Many military personnel cast their votes by mail with a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot that cannot be tabulated by voting machines. Their votes are transferred by hand onto standard, blank ballots by election employees working in pairs, one from each party, according to a court filing. 

Michigan law says partisan monitors can’t challenge ballots “without good cause.” In a court response to allegations that challenges were ignored, defendants said legitimate objections were registered, but election workers did not record “the numerous frivolous and legally invalid challenges.”

An election challenger sits as poll workers count absentee ballots at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

An election challenger sits as poll workers count absentee ballots at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press / USA TODAY Network

Wednesday morning, after more than 12 hours of monitoring, Sitto walked outside and sat down, overcome with exhaustion. He started talking with John M. Downing Jr., a member of Lawyers for Trump who spent five days in Detroit recruiting and overseeing election challengers.

That’s how Sitto wound up signing a court affidavit. It says he heard that vehicles with out-of-state license plates delivered tranches of ballots around 4:30 a.m. “I specifically noticed that every ballot I observed was for Biden,” he said in his affidavit, referring to Democratic candidate and now President-elect Joe Biden. 

He told USA TODAY he is convinced Trump lost because of widespread fraud. “If you were to put me on the stand, I would say yes.”

Elections expert: Challengers didn’t understand the process

In several lawsuits, the Trump campaign and allies provided more than 100 affidavits to support their allegations of election fraud and abuse in Michigan. In at least two cases, the city of Detroit responded with an affidavit from Christopher Thomas, an elections expert and a former head of elections for Michigan. 

Thomas painstakingly addressed the allegations in one suit, concluding Republican challengers “do not understand absent voter ballot processing and tabulating.”

Michigan judge Timothy Kenny
Perhaps if Plaintiffs’ election challenger affiants had attended the October 29, 2020 walk-through of the TCF Center ballot counting location, questions and concerns could have been answered in advance of Election Day.

The judge agreed, writing, “Perhaps if Plaintiffs’ election challenger affiants had attended the October 29, 2020 walk-through of the TCF Center ballot counting location, questions and concerns could have been answered in advance of Election Day.

“Regrettably, they did not,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiffs’ interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.”

A call to arms as Trump’s lead shrinks

Early in the morning on Nov. 4, the Livingston County Republican Party posted on Facebook that poll watchers were needed at the TCF Center, about an hour away. “35,000 ballots were suddenly found at 3:00 am in Detroit. We need YOU to help us defend the vote and help President Trump.” 

The state Republican Party and conservative activists put out similar calls to monitor the Detroit counting after the alleged vote dump.

Conservative activist Charlie Kirk joined in, calling for Trump supporters to “swarm MI with more Trump Poll Watchers immediately!” 

Seely had stayed up late on Election Night, growing ebullient as she watched the returns on a Fox News app. The president she revered was leading not just in Michigan, but other battleground states. It was going to be four more years. 

She went to bed about 3 a.m. When she awoke, certain victory seemed to be slipping away.

“I thought, this is so weird. Something’s not right,” Seely recalled. “This is why people feel like their votes don’t matter.” 

Ballots counted Tuesday night were mostly cast in person. It took longer to count the huge increase in mail and absentee ballots, which in many states went overwhelmingly for Biden.  

Seely’s dad, director of the Trump campaign in Wayne County, called at 9 a.m. Wednesday to ask if she would help monitor counting of mail-in votes. 

In 2016 her father, Matthew Seely, headed Trump’s campaign in neighboring Macomb County. Afterward, the president’s son, Eric, visited the Seely steel factory. “It was very exciting,” she recalled. 

People outside a ballot counting area bang on the windows, chanting,

People outside a ballot counting area bang on the windows, chanting, “Let us in, and stop the count” at the TCF Center in Detroit on Nov 4.
Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

‘Stop the count!’

Seely got her credentials as an election challenger and went through a short training session provided by the Trump campaign. There was a brief questionnaire to ensure she knew the rules: Wear a mask, maintain social distance, no photographs, no talking to vote counters. 

Then she entered the “gi-normous” hall where the ballots were being counted. The room contained 134 tables, each staffed by five vote counters, under the watch of several hundred Democrat, Republican and independent challengers.  

Seely’s dad met her at the sign-in table. They were near some escalators when the first red flag went up: Seely noticed large backpacks and suitcases wrapped in clear plastic.  

Her father asked a security guard about them, she recalled, and was told to walk away. When he asked again, Seely said, the guard cursed and ordered them to leave.  

At Table 23, Seely’s suspicions grew as the day progressed. She alleged votes were counted even when names and ballot numbers didn’t match, or when tabulation machines detected errors. 

Large pieces of cardboard were taped up to prevent people from taking photos and videos of the ballot counting area at the TCF Center in Detroit on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

Large pieces of cardboard were taped up to prevent people from taking photos and videos of the ballot counting area at the TCF Center in Detroit on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

Throughout the hall, mostly white Republican challengers escalated their complaints against predominately Black election workers. 

‘Damaging to our democracy’: Trump election lawsuits targeted areas with large Black, Latino populations

Police escorted some monitors out of the hall. Those outside began banging on the windows, chanting, “Stop the count!” Election staffers taped cardboard over the glass to keep people from taking photos and videos.  

Someone shot a video of the windows being covered. It was picked up by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and in a Breitbart report, which the president tweeted and posted to Facebook. Trump’s post sharing that story was the link post in the U.S. with the most interactions on Facebook the day after the election. 

Joseph Zimmerman, a law student who served as an independent challenger at the TCF Center
I do not understand how people can be so tied up in who they want to be elected so much that they would be willing to harass poll workers.

In response to the Trump lawsuits in Michigan, lawyers for the Democrat Party submitted affidavits describing a starkly different narrative than Republicans’. “The only improprieties I saw were from Republican challengers,” Joseph Zimmerman, a law student who served as an independent challenger at the TCF Center, declared under oath. 

He said GOP challengers were “aggressive and intimidating,” sometimes surrounding vote counters and badgering them. 

Around 2 p.m., Zimmerman alleged, news spread through the hall that Biden had been declared the winner in Wisconsin, with Michigan poised to follow. Moments later, word spread via social media that the Trump campaign had filed a lawsuit to block the counting in Wayne County. (In fact, the suit had not yet been filed.) 

A woman with the Trump campaign holds a sign to get Republican challengers outside the TCF Center to chant,

A woman with the Trump campaign holds a sign to get Republican challengers outside the TCF Center to chant, “Stop the count!” as absentee ballots were counted in Detroit on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

Zimmerman said Republicans inside the hall started challenging every vote based on “pending litigation.” One of them began to shout, “Stop the count!” and those outside the room picked up the chorus. 

“As a veteran, I was particularly shocked that Republicans tried to stop the count of military ballots,” noted Zimmerman, who served in the Air Force. “I do not understand how people can be so tied up in who they want to be elected so much that they would be willing to harass poll workers. … It broke my heart.” 

‘Get to TCF’: What really happened inside Detroit’s ballot counting center

Decision to join lawsuit was no-brainer 

In the aftermath, Seely said, she was asked to meet lawyers for the Republican Party and invited to join her dad as a plaintiff in the case. The decision was a no-brainer “because I don’t want to ever see this happen again.” 

Like Sitto, Seely believes there was fraud in Wayne County’s vote count, and the national presidential outcome was stolen. At one point inside the TCF Center, Seely recalled, someone blurted that a message had appeared on one of the vote-counting monitors: “This computer is being hacked.” 

A national coalition of election security officials described the election as “the most secure in American history,” and Thomas said in his affidavit that none of the computers in the TCF Center were connected to the internet. 

Attorney General Barr: No widespread election fraud

Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. (Dec. 1)


Seely said she had heard about an incident in Shiawassee County in which every vote tallied during one batch was for Biden. The culprit, it turned out, was a typographical error in which an extra zero was added to Biden’s total. 

Trump himself amplified that claim, tweeting, “WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?”  

According to Zignal Labs, a media intelligence firm, mentions of missing or “magically found ballots” spiked across the U.S. the morning after the election. From Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, the topic was mentioned over 375,000 times. 

The notion that the election was “rigged” — and the desire to combat it — did not come out of nowhere, said Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center. 

“It was a narrative that was laid very carefully in the months leading up to the election,” she said. 

Michigan hearing: Fiery Giuliani tells Michigan lawmakers election stolen, offers no credible evidence

Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory
​​​​​​​This is not a thing that only stupid people fall to prey to. … People seek out information that confirms their beliefs or more heavily weight the information that confirms their beliefs.

In any U.S. election, there are going to be small-scale incidents in which something goes wrong, DiResta said. 

“Nine ballots in a garbage can is not going to flip the election back or mean there was massive fraud,” DiResta said. But it does help create “the perception that our process for voting is broken.” 

“This is not a thing that only stupid people fall to prey to,” she said. “People seek out information that confirms their beliefs or more heavily weight the information that confirms their beliefs.” 

The Trump campaign ultimately dropped the Michigan lawsuit in which Seely was a plaintiff.

‘Pristine’ ballots raise eyebrows in Georgia 

In Georgia, attorney Lin Wood launched an effort in federal court to halt the certification of the state’s election results, which showed Biden narrowly won. The key evidence: 18 affidavits from witnesses alleging fraud. 

Suzi Voyles, a longtime poll manager in Georgia, says she suspects fraud based on what she observed in the hand audit process.

Suzi Voyles, a longtime poll manager in Georgia, says she suspects fraud based on what she observed in the hand audit process.
Courtesy Suzi Voyles

Suzi Voyles, who said she served over two decades as a Fulton County poll manager, was one of them and the only witness who testified in court. She told USA TODAY she felt compelled to expose what she saw during voting and the subsequent audit. 

Voyles said she observed a box of 800 suspicious ballots, mostly for Biden, during the hand audit Nov. 14. The voting cards were “pristine,” she said, with no folds or bent edges. They were “unusually uniform,” she said in her affidavit — which she believed was a sign they were fraudulent. 

“They were absolutely, starkly different than the rest,” Voyles said in an interview. “Some of the (filled-in) bubbles looked exactly the same on every ballot.”

She said she complained to county and state officials, and an attorney friend connected her with Wood so she could submit her concerns in court as a sworn statement. “This allowed me to record something at a higher level rather than just complaining to my friends. It was time for me to step up,” Voyles said.  

“Too many people are bystanders,” she said. “This isn’t a game; it’s about our republic and knowing precisely what our founders envisioned.” 

‘Fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation’: Georgia official says Trump supporters misled

Fact-check: Video claim that Dominion tech manipulated Georgia votes is false

Democratic and Republican representatives review absentee ballots at the Fulton County Elections Preparation Center in Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

Democratic and Republican representatives review absentee ballots at the Fulton County Elections Preparation Center in Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
John Bazemore, AP

Voyles said she expects to lose her position as a poll manager now that she’s a “whistleblower,” as she put it. Though she’s a Republican activist, she said she was motivated by her concern for election integrity. 

“I felt as a citizen concerned about free and fair elections that if I did not say something, that not only challenged the integrity of my vote, but every other voter in the state of Georgia,” Voyles said. “We can’t afford to have people lose faith in our voting process.” 

‘It has to stop’: Georgia election official slams Trump’s rhetoric on voting fraud

A Georgia election official called on President Trump to condemn and “stop inspiring” recent threats of violence over the election.

Associated Press, USA TODAY

In a Nov. 19 court filing, attorneys for Georgia’s secretary of state said allegations in the Wood lawsuit were “legally unsupportable efforts to trigger a constitutional crisis and overturn the election results, based upon nothing more than … personal dissatisfaction with the outcome.” 

The Georgia lawsuit, like most others, failed in court. Since the November hearing, a YouTube video of Voyles describing what she saw has amassed 350,000 views. 

‘It has to stop’: Georgia official calls on Trump to ‘stop inspiring’ death threats over election

‘They have not earned your vote’: Trump allies urge Georgia Republicans to sit out Senate runoffs​​​​​​​

Two and a half weeks after the election, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, certified the state’s election results after a hand-count audit. The Trump campaign requested a recount, which was scheduled to be finished Wednesday night.  

Observers claim they can’t get close enough in Pennsylvania

In Philadelphia, Trump and his campaign assailed election officials for allegedly blocking the view of Republicans watching the ballot processing. 

Jeremy Mercer, a partner in the Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP law firm that represented Trump’s campaign before withdrawing, also served as a witness to the processing of mail-in and absentee ballots. 

During a Philadelphia news conference with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Nov. 4, Mercer said workers handling ballots were kept “hundreds, at least a hundred feet out of our sight. … We’re supposed to be observing, but we can’t see.” 

A man watches from the observers' area as election workers count ballots at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Nov. 6, 2020.

A man watches from the observers’ area as election workers count ballots at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Nov. 6, 2020.
Chris McGrath, Getty Images

He provided a somewhat different account in court. Mercer testified that he watched ballot processing at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Election Day, remaining until late at night. Officials erected a waist-high fence to minimize coronavirus risk, but monitors could move freely along it and observe some of the processing, he said.

Trump fights on: Lawsuit by Trump allies challenging Pennsylvania election results reaches Supreme Court

According to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, Mercer testified his vantage point was close enough to discern whether envelopes contained ballots that had been improperly returned.  

The state’s high court struck down Trump’s lawsuit, concluding that while Pennsylvania election law says campaign representatives can “remain in the room” where ballots are processed, they don’t specify a minimum distance to the processing. 

Sharpie markers play into doubts in Arizona

In Goodyear, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix, Clint Jamison and his wife showed up to vote on Election Day with their five kids, ages 4 months to 9 years. They stood in line wearing masks, got their IDs scanned and were handed Sharpie pens to mark their ballots. 

Jamison said his wife voted without a hitch. But when he placed his ballot in the machine to be counted, it was spit out due to a stray mark in a judge’s race. 

The poll worker offered three options: He could submit his ballot for a hand count, start over with a new ballot, or process the flawed one knowing his vote in that race wouldn’t be tallied.  

Jamison, trying to deal with five children, chose the last one. He resubmitted the ballot, a worker pressed a green button on the machine, and he left. 

People walk to vote at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on Nov. 3, 2020.

People walk to vote at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on Nov. 3, 2020.
Sean Logan/The Republic

It was only afterward, amid rumors of an Arizona election fraud dubbed “Sharpiegate,” that Jamison began to wonder whether his votes were counted. 

The conspiracy theory appears to have gained traction late on Nov. 3 when a Facebook user posted a video with the caption, “Tonight’s voting shenanigans.” A woman on camera explains that ballots for two voters were rejected because of blotches caused by Sharpie markers. The person recording the video says, “That way those votes aren’t counted.”

Sharpiegate: How a disproved conspiracy theory made Arizona a national media punchline

The video, which is now marked as “false information,” racked up more 29,000 interactions. As it spread, Trump’s campaign issued a news release asking Arizona voters and poll workers to report election problems to a site called “” 

Several poll workers told The Arizona Republic they heard concerns about Sharpies all day. The state Attorney General’s Office said it received more than 1,000 complaints about them.  

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Phoenix City Hall on Nov. 5, 2020.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Phoenix City Hall on Nov. 5, 2020.
Rob Schumacher/The Republic

However, election officials in Maricopa County, where many of the concerns were centered, said Sharpies are the preferred instrument for marking ballots because they don’t smear. State officials have dismissed claims that voters were disenfranchised by using Sharpies.

Still, Sharpiegate reached the highest levels of conservative social media, with more than 405,000 mentions, according to Zignal Labs. Among them: Eric Trump and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who called a fact-check debunking the theory “propaganda.” 

The Sharpiegate video, DiResta said, served as a way for Trump’s supporters to explain an inconceivable loss and vent outrage. The simplicity made it credible: Poll workers handing out Sharpies is “not a wild, outrageous thing like CIA supercomputers changing votes,” she said. “You don’t have to be a wild conspiracy theorist” to believe something happened.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
Matt York, AP

By Nov. 4, demonstrators were outside the Maricopa County vote tabulation center, holding signs reading “Count every vote” — the opposite of what Trump supporters chanted in Detroit. They were joined the next day by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, solidifying the event as an icon of the 2020 elections.  

Jamison became so concerned his vote for president hadn’t been counted that he tried to call election officials. He couldn’t get through, so he went to a Republican website, filled out a form, and wound up working with an attorney to complete an affidavit for a lawsuit. 

When Trump’s lawyers filed suit against state and county elections officials in Arizona, they initially claimed thousands of votes for president went unrecorded because of election mistakes and misconduct.  

Maricopa County election workers look through a window as they watch several dozen protesters rally in support of President Donald Trump at the Maricopa County Elections headquarters in Phoenix on Nov. 9, 2020.

Maricopa County election workers look through a window as they watch several dozen protesters rally in support of President Donald Trump at the Maricopa County Elections headquarters in Phoenix on Nov. 9, 2020.
David Wallace/The Republic

In court papers, Trump’s lawyers sought to enter hundreds of unsigned affidavits as evidence, even after conceding their online invitation had attracted false claims and spam, according to the legal news site Law & Crime.  

Lawyers for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs responded in a brief: “These self-serving ‘declarations’ were marshalled by a political campaign that primed the pump about alleged ‘widespread problems.’ There is no evidence that those filling out the forms even voted, let alone witnessed any errors or wrongdoing.” 

A judge agreed, ruling out the unsigned affidavits. 

In court, GOP lawyers offered no evidence that election errors were systematic or that Trump supporters were targeted. Witnesses acknowledged they did not know whether their presidential votes went uncounted. 

Proof? ‘I’m going to surmise it’ 

Edward Balko, 62, a self-described computer expert, claimed in an affidavit that he witnessed or detected multiple irregularities when he voted at a Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix. 

In an interview, Balko said he believes the election was stolen because there is no other explanation for what he saw as Biden’s impossible comeback after Trump held a substantial lead. 

He recalled watching news coverage Nov. 4 and thinking, “This isn’t right. How are these dead people voting?” Media have debunked such claims, interviewing people who were supposedly dead.  

Balko said he was given a Sharpie to mark his ballot but chose to use his own pen. A tabulation machine nevertheless rejected his ballot. The poll worker simply inserted it again and gave him an “I Voted” sticker.  

Balko said he checked an online dashboard to see if his vote had been recorded. Finally, about Nov. 23, the website showed that it had. 

He claimed there’s a pattern in fraud complaints across the country, saying he researched Maricopa County’s voting machines and concluded they were improperly linked to outside computers. National intelligence officials have said there’s no evidence voting systems were compromised. 

Asked for proof, he said, “I’m going to surmise it.” 

But he knows some of the things he speaks of didn’t happen. Balko mentioned a Michigan video that went viral on social media, purportedly showing a trunk full of ballots rolling into the TCF Center. When told the case contained video equipment, he acknowledged the fraud allegation had been debunked.  

Balko said he reported his election experiences and suspicions to a Republican website, then got together with an attorney and supplied an affidavit.

In a court hearing, several affiants testified about their fears or suspicions, rather than proof. According to Law & Crime, a woman named Mia Barcello was asked under oath if she had “any basis to believe your vote wasn’t counted?” 

Her answer: “I’m not sure. … No.” 

Others responded similarly. Laura Christians, 30, an affiant who does clinical research on drugs and medical devices, told USA TODAY she was not allowed to vote in secret and her ballot was rejected by the voting machine.  

Christians, who voted for Trump, said a poll worker simply resubmitted the ballot and pressed a green button without explaining what was happening. Christians’ father, who worked at polls for more than three decades, told her the worker should have explained her options without touching the ballot.  

With that information, Christians reported her experience to a Republican website and wound up signing an affidavit. 

Asked if she was a victim of election fraud, Christians said, “I don’t know. … I very well could have been.” 

Trump lawyer points to errors, not fraud

Amid testimony, Republican allegations of a stolen election in Arizona evaporated. Kory Langhofer, an attorney for Trump’s campaign, told a judge that plaintiffs were “not alleging fraud,” but merely identifying concerns about “good faith errors.”  

Arizona election officials pointed out that, amid more than 2 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, fewer than 200 registered an error for the presidential race. Biden defeated Trump in Arizona by about 10,500 votes. 

In a motion to dismiss the case, Roopali Desai, an attorney for the Secretary of State’s Office, argued the lawsuit was filed “solely to sow confusion and undermine the democratic process.” 

The judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit after Langhofer acknowledged that Biden won Arizona regardless of any perceived tabulation errors. 

But Jamison still doesn’t know if his votes counted, or if the election was rigged. “There’s a lot of things that seem off about the numbers,” he said.  

“Is it mass vote fraud?” he said. “If I had to lean, I’d say, yes, it seems like it. I don’t think Biden won.” 

Contributing: Ashley Nerbovig, Detroit Free Press (with support from the American Press Institute) 

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Sidney Powell launches election lawsuits in Mich. and Ga.

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election, inside the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 12:00 PM PT – Friday, November 27, 2020

Attorney Sidney Powell released the Kraken. On Thursday, the former Trump administration lawyer filed two explosive election lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan.

The criminal complaints are a compilation of witness statements and affidavits that spell out specific instances of potential fraud in clear detail.

In both suits, Powell said the fraud mainly took place in the form of “old-fashioned ballot stuffing,” which was rendered “virtually invisible” by Dominion and Smartmatic’s computer software. According to the attorney, both programs were created and funded at the behest of foreign oligarchs, specifically to rig elections.

The strategy was first developed and used by Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez to ensure he never lost an election. This was possible due to a core design in Smartmatic’s software that allows it to hide any manipulations to votes during an audit.

The brain of the system, called the “central accumulator,” does not provide an audit log that shows the date and time stamps of all inputted data. This allows unauthorized users to add or modify any data stored in tabulation machines with no risk of getting caught.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica even admitted the software was prone to tampering after a similar incident in Venezuela back in 2017.

“It is therefore with the deepest regret that we have to report that the turnout numbers…for the constituent assembly in Venezuela were tampered with,” Mugica stated of the occurrence. “It is important to highlight that similar manipulations are made in manual elections in many countries, but they go undetected.”

In her lawsuit, Powell also noted “especially egregious conduct” in Forsyth, Paulding, Cherokee Hall and Barrow Counties.

Records from the Board of Elections found more than 96,000 absentee ballots were requested and counted, but were never returned to county clerks for certification, which made them invalid.

Another notable incident took place in Fulton County. Powell claimed poll workers were evacuated from a tabulation center at the State Farm Arena for several hours on November 3.

According to Powell’s report, workers were told the evacuation was due to a water leak, which required the facility to close. However, city records show the arena’s only water leak happened earlier in the day and it did not affect the area where votes were being counted.

According to a poll official’s affidavit, some employees were left unsupervised during the evacuation.

Meanwhile, witnesses in Michigan described incidences where they felt intimidated by poll officials. In some cases, voters were even coached on how to fill out their ballots.

In another affidavit, expert witness Russell James Ramsland Jr. claims he witnessed Dominion voting machines injecting or fabricating more than 200,000 votes for Joe Biden. According to his statement, four different townships received over 290,000 more votes than they had constituents.

Examples of potential vote switching and double voting were also observed. This included sworn testimony from whistleblowers who witnessed ineligible ballots counted, in some cases, twice.

Meanwhile, Powell pointed to an instance where voters came to polling centers with completed mail-in ballots that were never submitted. The voters were still allowed to cast ballots in person.

RELATED: Attorney DiGenova Says Fraud, Deception In Pa. Election Is ‘Truly Staggering’

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US election results: Georgia recount upholds Biden’s victory as Trump loses clutch of lawsuits | US News

Joe Biden has been confirmed as the winner of the 3 November election in Georgia following a hand tally of election ballots.

The audit was launched after unofficial results showed Mr Biden leading president Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes.

Following the recount, Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said there was “no doubt” that the state would certify Mr Biden‘s victory on Friday.

“The audit has aligned very close to what we had in election night reporting,” he said.

“It’s so close, it’s not a thimble full of difference.”

Once the state certifies the results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount since the margin remains within 0.5%.

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Bad hair dye for Trump’s personal lawyer?

The news comes just hours after Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani used a news conference to repeat baseless claims that electoral fraud was involved in the process leading to Mr Biden’s victory.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump and his allies lost three court rulings on Thursday in their effort to stop Mr Biden from taking office, even as they continued to claim a viable path to victory.

In Georgia, a judge appointed by the president denied a request by Lin Wood, a conservative lawyer, to halt certification of Mr Biden’s victory in the state.

US President Donald Trump looks on after delivering an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Trump and his allies lost three court rulings on Thursday

The lawsuit alleged Georgia election officials improperly changed the process for handling absentee ballots.

“To halt the certification at literally the eleventh hour would breed confusion and disenfranchisement that I find have no basis in fact and law,” said US District Judge Steven Grimberg.

A judge in Pennsylvania then rejected the Trump campaign’s bid to invalidate about 2,200 ballots in Bucks County, near Philadelphia, over purported defects such as missing “secrecy envelopes”.

The judge noted that the Trump campaign had stipulated that there was “no evidence of any fraud, misconduct, or any impropriety with respect to the challenged ballots”.

Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building on November 16, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
State election officials carry out the recount

In Arizona, a state court judge threw out a Republican-backed lawsuit seeking to halt Phoenix officials from certifying Mr Biden as the winner.

The Arizona Republican Party had asked Judge John Hannah to order a new audit of ballots in Maricopa County, where the majority of Arizonans live, arguing it had been conducted in a manner that violated state law.

The judge did not explain why he was denying the request but said he would issue a lengthier decision soon.

The Arizona Republican Party said in a statement that it had sought “judicial clarification” of a law relating to determining a sample for a post-election audit of ballots.

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Lawsuits over ballot counts move forward in Pa., Mich., Wis. amid alleged instances of fraud

Chester County, Pa. election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots at West Chester University, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in West Chester. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:43 AM PT – Friday, November 13, 2020

After witnessing ongoing incidents of election fraud in the Badger State, a trio of voters in Wisconsin are taking matters into their own hands by filing a suit claiming the rights of all voters have been violated.

In a filing Thursday, they affirmed Wisconsin officials counted illegal votes toward the final tally in violation of the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment. The plaintiffs said ballot dumping and other instances of fraud disenfranchised legal voters in Dane, Menominee and Milwaukee counties.

As a result, the plaintiffs said Wisconsin results must not be certified unless fraudulent votes are declared invalid. Voters are not the only ones pushing back against fraud as a group of state senators in Michigan are demanding an audit of all election results this year.

In a letter to the Michigan secretary of state Thursday, GOP state senators said they had identified thousands of cases of voter fraud. The senators noted Michigan election officials counted illegal ballots, counted the same batches of ballots twice and backdated ballots.

They added, Democrat officials also used false information to fill-out ballots, counted votes cast by dead people and did not signature-match ballots.

During a demonstration outside of the capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, voters showed their support of their lawmakers while demanding a full recount must take place before the certification of results to ensure the election is fair and transparent.

“We’re on the streets now and we’re in front of the state Capitols,” said conservative commentator Nick Fuentes. “And we’re not leaving until the state legislators allocate their electoral votes to President Trump for another four years.”

County officials have admitted tens-of-thousands of ballots received have had errors from a lack of signature to an incorrect date.

“So yesterday we had to return about 13,000 or so ballots and, you know, there were problematic ballots and we (the commissioners) discussed it,” explained Omar Sabir, the City Commissioner of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “There was approximately about maybe 2,000 or so that, you know, that didn’t have the secrecy envelope or didn’t have a signature on the declaration envelope.”

Amid the controversy, however, some officials are showing their support of the multiple efforts in Philadelphia and elsewhere across the nation for voters to have their voices heard.

Meanwhile, 10,000 votes in Philadelphia are potentially under review due to ballot counting continuing past the state’s deadline. Oral arguments for that case are slated for next week in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

FILE – In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, workers count Milwaukee County ballots at Central Count in Milwaukee. U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a surprising twist. In places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

RELATED: Former Trump strategist using data to investigate voter fraud

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Trump campaign pushes fraud lawsuits in Georgia as president ramps up ‘cheat’ claims

Meanwhile Mr Trump resumed his presidential duties on Wednesday, laying a wreath in Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the country’s fallen troops on Veterans’ Day, a public holiday in the US.

Mr Trump looked sombre as he appeared alongside First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence and did not address reporters.

However in a string of tweets throughout the day Mr Trump escalated his claims of electoral sabotage, claiming in one tweet that inaccurate polling by ABC News and the Washington Post amounted to a “possibly illegal suppression”.

Mr Trump referred to a poll by the outlets released before election day and which showed Mr Trump down 17 points in Wisconsin.

Rather, Mr Trump claims, he was on the verge of winning the Midwestern state. In fact, Mr Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes with most ballots counted.

Mr Biden has continued work on the transition, appointing longtime adviser Ron Klain as  his chief of staff.

Mr Klain served as chief of staff for Mr Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Mr Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He’s known and worked with Mr Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.

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