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Muslim Americans Faced Extra Hurdles to Voting in Swing State Michigan

Arab American National Museum
The Arab American National Museum is located in Dearborn, Michigan

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

One of the swing states that surprisingly swung for Donald Trump in the Presidential election was Michigan where 16 electoral college votes were at stake.

It was also a state where Muslim American voters faced discrimination when trying to cast a vote, according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund which sent out 950 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to 137 polling places in 14 states with large Asian American populations.

Trump carried Michigan by just 11,837 votes out of 4.5 million votes cast for the two candidates.

“Asian American and American Muslim voters encountered numerous barriers to voting, which other groups did not face,” said Jerry Vattamala, AALDEF Democracy Program Director. “AALDEF will investigate these voter complaints and seek all available remedies under the law.”

In the six presidential elections prior to 2016 Michigan has voted in favor of the Democrat by margins ranging from 3.4 percent in 2004 to 13.2 percent in 1996.Election 2016

In 2012, President Obama carried the state by 9.5 percent.

Three polls had Hillary Clinton leading in the state by four to six percent prior to Tuesday’s election. Trump won by one percent.

Among the incidents witnessed by AALDEF poll monitors, a poll worker required an American Muslim woman to remove her niqab and fully reveal her face before presenting her voter identification at a community center in Canton. AALDEF reports fully veiled American Muslim women were also asked to show their faces in order to verify their identification cards at the poll in at Canton’s Crescent Academy.

In Detroit, Arab American voters were told they were not registered to vote and made to stand off to the side for more than an hour. They weren’t allowed to vote until another voter noticed them and confirmed they were properly registered.

Other Arab American voters weren’t so lucky. They left the poll site in Detroit without voting after being told they weren’t registered despite having voted at the same poll site two years earlier.

Poll workers were described by AALDEF volunteers “as generally rude” to the largely American Muslim population at the Lasky Recreation Center in Detroit, especially to many limited English proficient voters.

AALDEF’s exit poll results in Michigan showed that voters who identified themselves as Muslim faced additional barriers to voting.

“In light of the virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric during this election season, attorneys and community advocates across the country must remain on high alert for instances of discrimination and violence against American Muslims,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of AALDEF.

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