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Voting Problems, Fraud, Scandals Plague Polling Places Across America: Michigan
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Photo: USA Really

Voting Problems, Fraud, Scandals Plague Polling Places Across America: Michigan

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MICHIGAN – December 10, 2018

Metro Detroit couldn’t shake its reputation for problematic elections. Problems at the polls in Detroit popped up sporadically, leaving some voters waiting in line for more than an hour while others left altogether, Detroit Free Press reported.

Several would-be voters in Redford Township did not stay Tuesday morning while the lone voting machine at Pierce Middle School was being fixed.

Rex Nagy, a retired voter in Redford Township, said that his polling place at Pierce Middle School was relying on just one broken voting machine that he was told had not been tested before Election Day. Everything was at a standstill while around 100 people waited for the machine to get fixed.

"It stinks, it really does. So many people were upset," Nagy said.

“The new machine at the 2nd precinct in Webster Twp. rejected my ballot the first time, the poll worker then took my ballot out of its cover and fed it in again, she apparently had been dealing with the problem all morning. My general impression of this new machine is it 's cheap, flimsy and slow. The drive motor seems to be too weak to power a long ballot,” said Eric Borregard from Dexter, MI in a Facebook comment.

Eric Borregard

In Detroit, voting equipment was not ready when the polls opened at Martin Luther King Jr. High School because a custodian did not know where the equipment was located, city elections director Daniel Baxter confirmed in a text message. Voters said they were turned away and instead went to the church across the street.

Some voting machines in Wayne County "froze" Tuesday morning and were restored, said Lisa Williams-Jackson, a spokeswoman for the county clerk's office. Voters at both Riverside Elementary in Dearborn Heights and Addams Elementary School in Redford experienced the issue.

At Greenfield Elementary in Oakland County's Southfield Township, resident Sarah Donovan was told her voting machine was out when she arrived to vote at about 8:30 a.m.

Many of the 20 to 30 others waited, but she went home to call the township. By about 9:15 a.m., she had heard the machine was up and running again.

The machine's batteries ran out after two hours, said the Southfield City Clerk Sharon Tischler. It was plugged into a surge protector, but the protector was set to the "off" switch, which was fixed by a custodian.

"They didn’t look to see whether the on or the off was working," Tischler said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, told the Free Press that she heard four people at the school were asking arriving voters their names and whether they were sure they were U.S. citizens.

However, Dearborn City Clerk George Darany said he investigated the complaints at Salina Intermediate School and didn't find evidence of harassment or too many election challengers.

In at least one polling location in Royal Oak, a posted sign said a picture ID would be required to vote, contrary to state law. It's true that Michigan has a Voter ID law, but your ID doesn't need your address on it, and most importantly, you don't actually need your ID to vote.

On Election Day, the Free Press worked with Electionland to track problems at the polls. The list was long: reporters confirmed reports of missing and broken-down machines, long lines and the use of sharpies to mark ballots, among other issues.

At the Kennedy Center Junior High School, precincts 11 and 12, residents were reporting that election equipment was not set up by 7 a.m. when polls opened, according to the Oakland Press.

Kevin Ogg and his wife were two of the first people in line to vote Election Day  morning when they were told there was no voting equipment on site.

“They were in panic mode, they didn’t know what was going on,” Ogg said. “It’s the only snafu I’ve ever seen voting 25 years there.”

In most of Michigan's statewide contests, results weren't available until close to midnight or after, Mlive wrote.

Compared to many other states, Michigan is slow in reporting election results. The big reason is Michigan's decentralized election system, said Chris Thomas, former director of the state's Bureau of Elections.

In most states, elections are run by county officials, Thomas said. Michigan is one of eight states where elections are overseen by city, township and village clerks - and Michigan is the largest of the eight in both population and geography.

That means Michigan's election system involves 83 county clerks, 280 city clerks and 1,240 township clerks -- a total of 1,603 county and local election officials, "making it the most decentralized elections system in the nation," said a 2011 report by the Michigan Secretary of State office.

Another problematic aspect of Michigan’s decentralized system: In many communities, elections aren't administered by a trained professional but an elected local official who may or may have the organizational and technical skills needed. And if a local clerk isn't particularly good at administering elections, there's not much a county clerk can do: Local clerks aren't in his or her employ and, to complicate matters, elected clerks don't have a boss who monitors his or her performance.

Armada Township Clerk Mary Swiacki said a poll worker called her at the township offices and said village trustee candidate James Fulner, 35, refused to abide by election law requiring candidates to stay 100 feet from the polling station as he was approaching voters inside of that zone.

“I went up to the senior center after getting a call and told him to move behind the distance marker like all the rest of the campaigning people,” Swiacki said. “I left and came back, he hadn’t moved so I took spray paint and marked the 100-foot mark. He finally moved and I said 'thank you' and he swore at me.”

Swiacki observed six beers in the back of Fulner’s car when he had the trunk open.

“I was called later and was told he was drinking the beer and even trying to give it to the voters,” Swiacki said.

Lt. Michael Shaw, Michigan State Police public information officer, confirmed troopers from the Oak Park Post went to the senior center polling location off North Avenue.

“This was regarding a man passing out beer to voters and causing a scene within 100 feet of the polling location,” Shaw said. “The troopers made contact with Swiacki and she stated a male was swearing loudly, consuming alcohol and passing out alcohol to voters.”

A minor reporting error during the Nov. 6 election changed the outcome of one seat on the Kinde Village Council.

Challenger Kenneth W. Church collected the most votes (94) for one of three open seats. Unofficial results indicated incumbents Harvey L. Hagle and Scott M. McIntyre collected the next two highest amounts of votes — 73 and 70 votes, respectively — and defeated incumbent Carl T. Dickinson, who finished with 63 votes.

However, Huron’s official results show Dickinson receiving 73 votes. The 10-vote switch now placed Dickinson on the council instead of McIntyre.

Huron County Clerk Lori Neal told the Tribune the night of the election, 37 votes for Dickinson. But, after canvassing the results, Neal discovered the vote count was actually 47.

Election errors in Kent and Allegan counties impacted the Nov. 6 race for the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees, Mlive reported.

For the second time this week, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons is apologizing for an election mistake involving the Nov. 6 Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees race.

On Friday, Nov. 30, Lyons said Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski notified her late Tuesday that the GRCC race was omitted from the ballots in two townships in Allegan County.

The omission affected 1,594 voters in one precinct in Leighton Township and 17 voters in a Wayland Township precinct for a total 1,611 registered voters, according to Lori Latham, communications and public relations director for Kent County.

Those eligible to vote in the race spanned all or parts of six counties, including Allegan, Barry, Kent, Ionia, Newaygo and Ottawa.

"We take our role in this very seriously, and we apologize to all who are affected by this error," Lyons said.

"As the coordinating county for this race, I acknowledge that my office played a role in this election and for our part we are very disappointed that this happened, and we are taking steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again."

Earlier this week, Lyons announced that a Kent County data entry error had prompted GRCC candidate Sheryl Siegel to file for a recount in the race, which had four candidates squaring off for two, six-year seats.

The county mistakenly entered 244 Barry County votes for Siegel instead of 2,404 votes increasing her vote tally to surge ahead in her tight battle with Carlos Sanchez for the second open seat.

However, the error was discovered after the county had already certified Kathy Crosby, the top vote-getter, and Sanchez as the winners. The race will be certified again after the recount to confirm Siegel's new vote totals. Troy Williams was the fourth candidate in the race.

Since learning of the omission, Lyons said they've explored every option available "to set this right."

But based on their research and on consultation with the Bureau of Elections, she said they determined there are no options available to her to address this issue.

Lyons said no one person was responsible for the ballot omission oversight.

“I'm stunned that someone so incompetent held state office, now holds county office, and could have been Lieutenant Gov. Perhaps the steps she should take include learning her current job (and actually showing up to it from time to time), earning her $100k+ tax-paid salary, and hiring people who are capable of running the election process. This election was no more complex than past elections. Our clerk simply has failed to embrace the significance of the role she was elected to manage - which is no surprise to those who know her,” a reader with the username WeShouldCareTD commented.

“Mad respect for someone that owns a issue and leans into a problem! That is what leadership is all about. Well done Kent County Clerk!” another reader added.

Author: USA Really