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Detroit absentee ballot instructions conflict with witness testimony about irregularities

What actually happened with Detroit absentee ballots violated the city's official instructions, per witness affidavits and city records.

Updated: April 13, 2021 - 2:53pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Newly obtained printed absentee ballot instructions for election workers in Detroit confirm that oral instructions described by a city election worker in a post-election sworn affidavit would have been egregious violations of city election rules.

The instructions, obtained by Just the News through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, were crystal clear concerning signature matching and ballot dating: Verification of signatures on absentee ballots was mandatory, and ballots were to be stamped with the date on which they are received.

Detroit election worker Jessy Jacob, a longtime city employee, testified in November that she was instructed by supervisors to ignore signatures on absentee ballots and to fraudulently backdate late-arriving absentee ballots to make them appear to be valid.

According to Detroit's absentee ballot instructions, signatures on the ballots were to be checked to see if they matched those on file. If a signature did not match, a letter would be sent to the voter "informing them that their returned ballot was rejected because the signature did not match our records."

If there was no signature on the absentee ballot envelope, the instructions mandated this resolution: "A letter will be sent to the voter stating the ballot return envelope was unsigned. They will have the option to come into the office to sign their original ballot return envelope or they may sign the ballot return envelope (empty) sent with the letter and mail it."

But in her post-election affidavit, Jessy Jacob affirmed, "I was instructed not to look at any of the signatures on the absentee ballots, and I was instructed not to compare the signature on the absentee ballot with the signature on file." Just the News reported on Jacob's affidavit in November.

According to the printed instructions provided to Detroit election workers, absentee ballots were to be date-stamped upon receipt with the day's date. Jacob, however, said in her affidavit that she was instructed by a supervisor to backdate absentee ballots arriving after Election Day as if they had arrived before. 

"On November 4, 2020, I was instructed to improperly pre-date the absentee ballots receive date that were not in the [Qualified Voter File, or QVF] as if they had been received on or before November 3, 2020," Jacob said under oath. "I was told to alter the information in the QVF to falsely show that the absentee ballots had been received in time to be valid. I estimate that this was done to thousands of ballots."

Attorney Mark Foster, who has represented Jacob during this process, told Just the News that she lost her job as a result of filing her affidavit and that she had no incentive to lie, given that she was under penalty of perjury. He added that there were others who swore in their own affidavits that they were given the same improper instructions Jacob received.

Foster also said that thousands of ballots were left unlocked and unguarded for 48 hours, poll books were not balanced, and the total number of voters in Detroit, including how many absentee ballots were sent and received, has not been released.

The Detroit Department of Elections did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday. 

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