County elections director details vote security, recount anomaly

WKTV asked Wyoming and Kentwood city clerks, and the Kent County elections director to assure local voters their vote counted — and was counted properly.


K.D. Norris


Kent County’s partial manual recount of the presidential election results identified local examples of a statewide voting system anomaly associated with ballots with straight-party voting and invalid write-in votes, according to the county’s director of elections.


But, Susan deSteiguer said Monday, the vote changes in the county were few and likely would have been a zero-sum gain for the two major party presidential candidates if the recount continued — and the problem will likely not repeat itself, depending on the eventual resolution of a court-delayed change in Michigan’s voting laws which would eliminate straight-party voting.


The key to Michigan voting system, and the reason for confidence in local over results, is in the stand-alone tabulation machines, like the one shown here. (Supplied)

Also Monday, deSteiguer detailed the county-level procedures for verifying the integrity of votes cast in the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood precincts — and as the two city clerks said in a previous story, the bottom line is stand-alone voting machines are tested for accuracy prior to the voting and never connected to the internet, “at any time, ever” and voting tabulations are checked and then double checked by various means at various local, county and state levels.


“We have multiple ways of confirming that the totals that were generated in that precinct match what we eventually send up to the (Board of State) Canvassers,” deSteiguer said.


Those “multiple ways” include duplicate paper copies of electronically reported vote totals, reconciliation and verification of vote totals by bi-partisan canvassers at both the county and state levels, and — if necessary — the secured original paper ballots available for recounts. It all begins with local control at a city and township voting level, however.


“We are home rule, which means every city or township clerk is responsible for the election within their city or township,” she said. “I makes it much more complex, but the good side of that it makes it impossible for one or a minimum number of people to manipulate an election. … I have 30 city or township clerks checking my work.”


And when they have a recount, as they started with the presidential election ‘We have a physical ballot to look at, we start with the physical ballot. … and every time we do a physical recount, which we have done before, it proves again and again, that the (voting) machines counted the votes accurately.”


The recent recount of paper ballots, started and stopped in Kent County when about 50 percent of the 313,000 plus total votes cast were checked, did produce an anomaly in the system, however.


The basic problem with vote totals not matching voter numbers across the state identified during the partial recount, deSteiguer said, was that people who chose straight party voting at the beginning of their ballots and then wrote in an invalid write-in candidate for president, would have had their votes electronically counted for their selected political party — and not counted as having not voted for any of the candidates.


An invalid write-in candidate usually occurs, deSteiguer said, when someone writes in a nonperson, or a real person is written in but that candidate did not meet legal requirements to verify their write-in candidacy 10 days prior to the election. In Kent County, there were six presidental candidates on the ballot and seven valid write-in possibilities.


The system of having only valid write-in votes count “prevents us from dealing with what we call ‘nuisance” votes,” deSteiguer said. “We will see things on the ballots such as Jesus Christ, Donald Duck, etc. … and we not not want to waste out time tallying votes for Donald Duck. We only tally valid write-in votes.


“On the presidential ballot, we had voters who wrote in ‘None of the above’ or ‘Are you kidding me?’,” she added.


As for the possibility of the straight-party and invalid write-in anomaly reoccurring?


deSteiguer said if that will depend on the ongoing debate over the change to Michigan’s straight-party voting ability — “How it will be in the future, I don’t know.”