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Zoom threats interrupt Wayne County canvassers meeting

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting was interrupted Wednesday by a Zoom user who made expletive-filled threats of rape and violence against the mothers of the four canvassers. 

The individual ended his message, telling individuals to "shut the (expletive) up, (expletive)" and "Trump 2020, (expletive)."

It's not the first time a canvasser meeting has been interrupted by a "Zoom bomb," canvassers said. Previous interruptions after the August primary canvassing process have included racist epithets, said Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and vice chairman of the board. 

Jonathan Kinloch

But the Wednesday outburst came as three different lawsuits are seeking to stop the canvassing and certification process in Wayne County, alleging ballot irregularities and barriers to poll challenger access. One of them is by the campaign of President Donald Trump, who lost to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden 51%-48% or by 146,000 votes in Michigan.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers started its examination of vote tallies last Thursday and held a second meeting Wednesday to approve name variations for write-in candidates. The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to certify the election results. 

On Wednesday, the board met in person but several members of the public attending the meeting did so through Zoom. People were screened in a virtual waiting room to try to block bots seeking to interrupt the meeting, but some apparently got through, said Monica Palmer, a Republican and the board's chairwoman. 

A box is dedicated to problem ballots as Detroit absentee ballots are processed at TCF Center, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Neither Kinloch nor Palmer expressed concern about the threats given previous similar incidents.

"I didn’t feel threatened," Kinloch said. 

Palmer said the comments were "uncomfortable," but she didn't take them as personal attacks.

"Those are not words that should be used in a public area," she said.

Since Election Day, four lawsuits have been filed challenging the results in Michigan, three of which have focused almost exclusively on Wayne County, Michigan's most populated county and home to the state's largest city. Biden won the Democratic-dominated county 68%-31% or a margin of nearly 323,000 votes.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Grand Rapids, President Donald Trump's re-election campaign asked the federal court to halt Wayne County's canvassing process on allegations of ballot irregularities and barriers to poll challengers in Detroit. 

Detroit officials have pushed back, arguing there were more than enough canvassers at the TCF Center in Detroit last week and that changes to ballots were made because of clerical errors, not an effort to count illicit or late ballots. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com