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State board of canvassers to recount certain votes

Primary results remain unclear

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — The results of Detroit’s Aug. 6 mayoral primary remain uncertain.  The Michigan State Board of Canvassers met in Detroit, Aug. 27 to discuss the canvass for which they became responsible when the Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted not to certify the primary results on Aug. 20.

Their decision was based on the massive discrepancy between unofficial results posted by the City Clerk and the findings of the Wayne County Elections Division.  The discrepancy centers on how potential write-in votes for candidate Mike Duggan were counted.

“During our initial review of the facts, we found mistakes have been made in processing and recording write-in votes both at the city and the county level,” State Elections Director Chris Thomas reported to the state board of canvassers.

Thomas candidly revealed the angle the state was taking.

“Initially, we focused on 179 precincts where the Wayne County Board of Canvassers awarded no votes to Mr. Duggan,” he said.  “As we reviewed their canvass spreadsheet, it became obvious that the 18,000 plus votes were distributed across far more precincts including those where only a portion of the votes were awarded to Mr. Duggan.  In other words, the Detroit statement of votes showed a number of votes for Mr. Duggan and the Wayne County spreadsheet did not award those votes to Mr. Duggan.”

Thomas based his interpretation on the 1934 Michigan Supreme Court case Miller v. Miller regarding a failure to retain tally sheets.

He cited the judge’s decision in that case: “The fraud on the part of the voter will eliminate that ballot, but fraud from the state on the part of the state from the inspectors of elections should not operate to defeat the will of the voter.”

The state found numerous examples wherein the following occurred: where the precinct workers correctly documented the write-in votes, but the write-in votes reported on the statement of votes (i.e. poll book completed by elections inspectors) exceeded the number of write-in votes indicated on the tabulator tape (recorded by the voting machine); where inspectors didn’t show their work with any approved marks or otherwise and their statement of votes was less than the numbers recorded on the tabulator tape; and finally where no work was shown and the number of write-in votes recorded in the poll book exceeded the numbers on the tabulator tape.

The state Board of Canvassers accepted a number of Thomas’ recommendations in their efforts to finally certify the results.   First, the canvass will count any marks — slashes, checks or Xs, in the poll books as proof  election inspectors conducted their work adequately, in place of the required hash-marks. Second, the Board will accept votes reported by the city where the precinct workers correctly documented the write-in votes, but the write-in votes reported on the statement of votes were less than the number of write-in votes indicated on the tabulator tape. Third, the state will be allowed to examine the contents of the ballot boxes in such cases where elections inspectors failed to show their work in tallying votes for a write-in candidate; where inspectors showed their work, but the total number of write-ins on the statement of votes exceeds the write-ins indicated on the tabulator; and finally, “where a discrepancy exists between the Wayne County Board of Canvassers’ summary and the statement of votes prepared by the (city) elections inspectors.”

Given that there are so many precincts in question, the state elections officials believe it will take a massive effort to conclude the canvass by Sep. 3, the legally required deadline for certification.  Thomas seemed confident, however, that the election certification would be completed that day.

Pledging that the examination would be fully transparent, Thomas invited the public to come and observe the process.  Anyone wishing to do so need simply arrive at suite L-150 first floor, of the Cadillac Place, 3044 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit, starting Aug. 27- 29 at 8 a.m. .

“This is not a recount,” Thomas stressed. According to state law, an election must be certified before it can be recounted. “I’m fully aware that a number of recount petitions have already been filed,” he said. Thomas later confirmed that the state would officially re-seal the ballots when they have completed their canvass, making all of the ballots fully eligible to be recounted.  When addressing the board, defeated mayoral candidate and recount petitioner Tom Barrow stated: “There are now pending nine historic requests for recount investigations … with each rooted in allegations of fraud.”

Believing untrained precinct workers to be culpable, citizens present at the meeting questioned the employment of teens — aged 16 and 17 — as  elections inspectors.  Thomas was eventually able to cite the law that allows teens to work the polls, while state canvasser Julie Matuzak shared an anecdote about how her niece had benefited from an experience as a teen poll worker.

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