Politics

Canvassers Demand Answers After 72% Of Detroit’s Absentee Ballot Counts Were Off

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Recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, spurring officials in Michigan’s largest county to ask the state to investigate ahead of a pivotal presidential election.

Without an explanation from Detroit election workers for the mismatches, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers requested this week for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office to examine the “training and processes” used in Detroit’s Aug. 4 primary, which one official described as a “perfect storm” of challenges. The board is charged with certifying election results.

In 46% of all Detroit’s precincts — absentee and Election Day — vote counts were out of balance, according to information presented Tuesday to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Specifically, the number of ballots tracked in precinct poll books did not match the number of ballots counted.

The situation could amplify the spotlight on absentee ballots in Michigan ahead of an election for which record levels of mail-in voting are expected and President Donald Trump is already raising concerns about how votes will be handled.

The election results for the primary weren’t incorrect, said Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and one of the canvassing board’s four members. But, he said, something had gone wrong in the process of tracking ballots precinct by precinct.

Having balanced precincts is particularly important in Michigan because precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can’t be recounted, according to state law. Instead, the original election results would stand.

“It was a perfect storm,” Kinloch said.

The “storm” involved a record number of absentee ballots being cast in Michigan’s primary and seasoned election workers not feeling it was safe to help with administering the election because of COVID-19, he added.

The Wayne County board is asking Benson, a Detroit resident, to investigate “the training and processes used by the City of Detroit” in the primary election. The board also requested that the first-term Democrat appoint a state monitor to oversee the counting of absentee ballots in the general election.

The Board of State Canvassers is set to meet at 2 p.m. Friday to certify election results from around Michigan. November will bring Michigan’s first statewide general election with no-reason absentee voting after voter approval of a 2018 constitutional amendment.

On Thursday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he was reaching out to Benson and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who administers elections in the city, “to make sure this gets fixed immediately.”

“We cannot have a recurrence of these problems in November,” Duggan said.

Detroit had problems with precinct count mismatches in the November 2016 election. Election officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 59% of precincts in the city during a countywide canvass of vote results with most of the issues involving too many votes.

Those votes couldn’t be recounted when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein demanded a statewide recount following Donald Trump’s initial 13,000-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. A recount was started but stopped and nullified by the courts when Stein was ruled ineligible for a recount request because she had no chance at victory.

The results eventually were certified as a 10,704-vote victory for Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan in 28 years. It was the Republican businessman’s smallest margin of victory in the nation.

The problems with the Detroit’s numbers in the Aug. 4 primary included ballots being put in the wrong tracking containers, said Monica Palmer, one of the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

“It was so inaccurate that we can’t even attempt to make it right,” said Palmer, chairwoman of the board.

Winfrey said the vast majority of the absentee voting precincts in the city wer… (Read more)

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