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Justice Department watching Michigan on election day, but it's largely business as usual

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The Secretary of State says local jurisdictions and school districts in 82 of Michigan's 83 counties are conducting elections today.

The U.S. Justice Department will keep a close eye on things in Michigan this election day.

But according to Detroit’s U.S. Attorney, that’s largely business as usual.

Barbara McQuade has appointed Dawn Ison, a “very experienced” prosecutor from her office’s public corruption unit, to be the District Election Officer.

Ison will “be on call” all day to take any complaints of potential federal election violations, from potential fraud to complaints of voter intimidation. She also has a direct line to the Justice Department in Washington if the need arises.

This happens nationwide every election year, McQuade says. While there’s been a lot of concern expressed about a “rigged election” this year, and Donald Trump has repeatedly urged his supporters to monitor the polls themselves for potential voter fraud.

“I know there’s been concern expressed this year about irregularities in voting, but we’re really doing just the same thing we do every time there’s a federal election,” McQuade says.

McQuade notes that election challengers can’t just show up and deputize themselves for that role, though. You need to be certified and credentialed by the state, and there are restrictions on your role

And in general, at least in Michigan, “Our election system is so decentralized, that I think it would be very difficult for someone to disrupt the entire election,” McQuade said.

Unlike some states, Michigan uses paper ballots. And while those votes are initially read by a computerized optical scanner, “there are canvassers who certify the outcome by going through those paper ballots after they’re counted on election day,” McQuade said.

Ison can be reached on election day at (313) 226-9567. In West Michigan, U.S. Attorney Donald Daniels can be reached at (616) 808-2014.

Complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, or by email at voting.section@usdoj.gov.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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