[Image courtesy of stridingmom]
After my post last Wednesday on the Detroit mayoral primary, Michigan state election director Chris Thomas posted the following as a comment:
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers will meet on Tuesday, August 27 to continue and complete the canvass of the Detroit primary. The resolution of the write-in votes will likely take a few days. The county is given 14 days to canvass and if they fail to complete the canvass, the canvass by operation of law is transferred to the Board of State Canvassers.
With regard to hash marks, the Election Law does not specifically mention them. It says: “All computations and tallies shall be made upon the tally sheets used at such election.” This means that the precinct inspectors are supposed to show their work, not just arrive at a final number. There may be more than one way to do this; however, in no case would the absence of hash marks justify the disenfranchisement of the write-in votes.
The county canvassers have authority to retrieve the actual ballots and make an accurate count if in their judgment their Statement of Votes are not accurate and it appears there are votes that were not counted.
Regarding training, it is clear the precinct inspectors were trained as there are roughly 615 precincts and 179 didn’t use hash marks. Why the 179 didn’t use them remains to be seen.
The fact that approximately 18,000 votes are involved was not brought to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers by their staff until the 14th day (the deadline) by which time it was too late to do anything. In my view they took the correct action by not certifying and allowing the canvass to come to the Board of State Canvassers where the 18,000 votes will be reviewed and counted if properly cast. [emphasis added]
Thomas elaborated on this position in a story on MichiganLive:
“Any errors of an election official should never disenfranchise a voter,” Thomas said … on a conference call with reporters. “The system is set up with an opportunity for the canvassing board — if they believe there are votes that have not been counted — to do that during the canvas. That’s what should have been done here.”
In the end, then, it appears that while this dispute stems from the failure to use hash marks, it was caused in large part by the failure to alert county canvassers of the problem before the deadline. Kudos to the state for doing their part to resolve the controversy – and here’s hoping the county takes the (very clear) hint to alert staff in the future to the need to highlight potential problems well before the deadline.