More than 100 million tourists visit Michigan each year, and on Tuesday, the state even managed to draw in the man who made a Fox News appearance dressed as a pimp.
Conservative activist James O’Keefe posted hidden camera videos of requests being made at metro Detroit polls for the ballots of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, state Sen. Morris W. Hood III, the Detroit Free Press’ Brian Dickerson, Stephen Henderson, and Nancy Kaffer, and Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson during Tuesday’s primary election.
O'Keefe alleges voter fraud, with the videos being made in an apparent attempt to show the need for voter ID in all instances. The poll visits are part of a "Project Veritas investigation into the flaws of the voter ID laws in Michigan," O'Keefe said in one video.
In Michigan, voters without ID must sign an affidavit before casting a ballot.
O'Keefe and his associates don’t seem particularly prepared, giving the wrong address for Dickerson, mispronouncing Greimel's name, and claiming to have lost a wallet "hunting" — when any self-respecting Michigander would know there is virtually no animal in the state that is hunted in prime breeding season.
“The loophole in the Michigan election law says that someone can just sign an affidavit and vote — no photo ID or anything else required,” O’Keefe said in a video.
Activist's Michigan visit follows court decisions on voter ID
O’Keefe posted footage of a visit the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, where he identifies himself as a reporter and goes on to record audio of a conversation with Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, the city’s corporation counsel.
O’Keefe said in the video that he was not given Duggan’s ballot and did not cast a vote in the mayor’s name.
During the recording, Hollowell said: “Anyone who touches a ballot or publishes anything in connection with someone else’s ballot under the Michigan election law … is guilty of a felony.”
O’Keefe said to Hollowell: “I just want to understand that the mayor’s office believes they should charge journalists with crimes for publishing videos.”
Hollowell said in a phone interview Wednesday that no one was able to obtain the mayor’s ballot.
“He made up an excuse about needing to get his eyeglasses and didn’t sign the affidavit,” Hollowell said, referring to the video taken at Duggan’s polling location. “The video doesn’t represent anything that would resemble reality.”
A call to the number O'Keefe provided rang unanswered Wednesday and went to a voicemail inbox that was full.
In an email to MT, O’Keefe said the “secret recording” inside the mayor’s office details “his people threatening to NOT ONLY get me on criminal charges, but other journalists who are ‘an accomplice’ to exposing voter fraud. We are asking the mayor to condemn the behavior of Butch Hollowell.
“We’ve exposed the voter system is broken and its up to the people to make necessary reforms,” O’Keefe said. “Do not attack those who’ve exposed it or attempt to silence or jail journalists.”
O’Keefe’s Michigan visit comes on the heels of voter ID laws across the country being struck down in court decisions, Hollowell said.
“In the last 10 days alone, federal courts in Detroit, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have struck down as unconstitutional newly enacted laws passed by state legislatures that were aimed at suppressing black and Latino voters,” he said. “That’s an important context in which to view Mr. O’Keefe’s actions.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has also questioned whether the November election will be “rigged” and criticized the recent court decisions.
“If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” Trump said in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post, adding: “The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”
A second Post article pointed out the scarcity of in-person voter fraud: “In-person voter fraud is so rare that waiting for it to happen will quickly bore you.”
O’Keefe, 32, pleaded guilty in 2010 to a misdemeanor charge of entering a federal building under false pretenses after attempting to enter the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, while posing as a telephone worker.
He’s known for undercover videos taken at the offices of the voter registration group ACORN, where O’Keefe asked employees for advice with associate Hannah Giles, who posed as a prostitute. ACORN eventually filed for bankruptcy in the wake of the scandal that followed the release of the videos.
In one of the videos posted Tuesday, a man tells a poll worker that he lost his wallet over the weekend while "playing with the grandkids" before asking for Greimel's ballot — and mispronouncing the state representative's name.
"The safeguards that are in place under Michigan election law worked exactly as they should work," said Greimel, who lives in Auburn Hills. "He was not able to cast a ballot."
O'Keefe said in a tweet that he "could have voted" as the Free Press' Dickerson in Tuesday's primary election.
“I don’t actually have my wallet with me. I lost it over the weekend hunting,” a man says to a poll worker, apparently at Dickerson’s Birmingham precinct, in the accompanying video.
The Free Press columnist tweeted a response to O’Keefe.
“Flagrantly deceitful post: Poll workers know me; O’Keefe was a signature away from a jail cell, not a ballot,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson addressed the incident in a Free Press column, calling O'Keefe a "professional liar."