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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Minor Technicalities reveal major flaws in Michigan Election Canvass Tabulation laws

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Minor technicalities with canvassing votes cast reveals major flaws exist in Michigan's electoral counting system. 


Each locality per state law can use differ canvassing methodologies including hash tags, numeration marks or other calculation designs. Michigan Election Law fails to define a clear unification standard for tallying of votes.

"In the canvass of votes cast for candidates for public office, the board shall first select and count the straight tickets and shall cause to be credited on the tally sheets the number to each candidate voted for on a straight ticket, MCL 168.804 defines.

"All other ballots shall be counted and tallied in such manner as will best insure accuracy and promptness in determining the result, and the inspectors of election shall see that proper credit is given on the tally sheets to the candidates voted for on such ballots."
Wayne County Board of Canvassers used numeration marks to tabulate unofficial votes cast for two political candidates in Detroit's Primary Mayoral Election August 20th. Michigan Election Law gives county canvassers boards authority to change elections results, if necessary.
"The board of county canvassers shall correct obvious mathematical errors in the tallies and returns." stated in MCL 168.823.
"The board of county canvassers may, if necessary for a proper determination, summon the election inspectors before them, and require them to count any ballots that the election inspectors failed to count, to make correct returns in case, in the judgment of the board of county canvassers after examining the returns, poll lists, or tally sheets, the returns already made are incorrect or incomplete, and the board of county canvassers shall canvass the votes from the corrected returns."
The county's Election Department unofficial tally led up to 21,000 votes lost for former Write-In Candidate Mike Duggan. Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Sheriff and candidate for Mayor of Detroit took an unofficial lead over Duggan by 564 votes.

According Fred Woodhams, spokesperson for Michigan Secretary of State, Napoleon's unofficial lead only may be temporary.

"Unofficial results announced immediately after Election Day are just that — unofficial. It common that results will shift during the canvassing process regardless of the jurisdiction," Woodhams stated. 
"In this case, there is a question regarding how write-in votes were totaled by precinct workers. The numbers presented to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers were not certified and the results are still unofficial."
Whether the tallying methodology used is a number or hash mark, state law only defines ballots must be counted and tallied in a manner to ensure the accuracy of the result. Leaving which mechanism is used to tally electoral votes up to the choice of each village, town, city or county clerk.

For August 6th primary election, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey's staff adopted the practice tally marks tabulation to assign votes for each of the candidates.

"We instruct our poll workers to use tally marks just for they don't lose their way in counting," Clerk Winfrey stated. "Sometimes when you are counting large numbers you can forget if I am at 37 or 47, so if you use the tally marks and then go back and count your tally marks it's a way to check your work, if you will."
Department of State Spokesperson Fred Woodhams conveyed Michigan Elections Director Christopher Thomas primary concerns rest on the possible disenfranchisement of up to 20,000 votes cast during Detroit's August 6th Primary Election.
"Mr. Thomas said today that in his view voters shouldn’t be disenfranchised because of a relatively minor procedural error that occurred in some precincts," Woodhams stated. "Nothing in state law requires the use of hash marks to tally write-in votes. 
Despite on-going communications with Wayne County Department of Elections -- Board of Canvassers headed by Clerk Cathy Garrett, Detroit Department of Elections was not aware of tally inconsistencies between the governmental offices before August 20th, City Clerk Janice Winfrey stated.
"During the canvass the entire time I have staff members there that observe the process and their to assist them with any questions or concerns they may have. Everyday that staff member gives me a report as to what went on with the canvass, Winfrey said.  
My report given on a daily basis stated everything and I quote "is running very, very smoothly" there were no issues and not concerns up until the last day of the canvass. We were not notified before yesterday of any discrepancies or anything, absolutely not".
Early next week State Board of Canvassers is scheduled to meet and determine in a finalized decision whether Detroit or Wayne County Department of Elections tally method should take precedence. 
"In this case, there is a question regarding how write-in votes were totaled by precinct workers. The numbers presented to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers were not certified and the results are still unofficial," Woodhams said. 
"The final decision will be up to the Board of State Canvassers now."
Independent Underground News & Talk reached out to Wayne County Department of Elections Clerk Cathy Garrett's office yet were unable to obtain an immediate response. Seven candidates officially filed with Garrett's office to conduct a manual recount of all votes cast during Detroit's Primary Election August 20th.

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