How Michigan County Clerks Make Sure Your Vote is Counted and the Election is Secure
TOWNSHIP OF HARRISON, Mich. – In Michigan, 1,600 clerks run elections in 83 counties at once.
This means that millions of votes are cast and counted. But it all starts with a single vote.
“The clerks are really a belt and suspenders, we have substitutes,” said Adam Wit.
Wit is the clerk of Township of Harrison and have been for 10 years. He is also president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.
“When you get your ballot it has a number at the top and everyone is a unique number for each constituency so we know we only give out one number one ballot or one number two ballot . You cannot bring your own ballot. We’re the only ones that have it,” Wit said.
After the ballot is filled out, it is routed to machines called tabulators. They read votes like a school scantron test and can even take photos to make sure registered candidates are counted. And this process is done – over and over and over and over again – until late at night, when the polls close and it’s time to get to work.
First, the box inside is unlocked making sure the seal on the tab stick is not broken. The stick is a USB key with a tamper-evident seal. This should be intact and match their records to the machine. Then they hit print. The machine spits out what amounts to an election reception time and date three times. One for the county board of canvassers, one for a county judge and one for the local clerk and everything is triple checked.
“If we had 100 voters, we know there’s going to be 100 ballots that have gone through the machine, the tabulator will tell us 100. The poll book will tell us 100. So we’re tying all of those numbers together to s’ ensure the count is valid,” Wit said.
After that it’s the ballot count, matching the number of ballots in the locked box inside the tabulator to the number of voters they counted that day for the number in the poll, each signed by a Republican and a Democrat.
The ballots are then stored, again under a signed padlock and sealed in a box or bag. This flash drive in its own tamper-evident sealed pouch is brought to the county clerk’s office. As Antoine Forlini‘Fishing Macomb County.
“He is led here. We get them, we put them in our secure server, which is not on the internet,” Forlini said. “We put it in our software and the reports go live and the media gets their numbers late at night.”
Macomb County would not let Local 4 show the server itself for voter safety reasons. But once those are in place, the county verifies the votes and returns the baton to the local clerk with a matching seal. The unofficial results rise and the solicitation or review process begins again for the next few weeks until the election is approved by the county and possibly the state. All designed as safes to ensure nothing was missed and everything was counted.
The clerks do not see having to explain the process as an inconvenience but as an opportunity to prove voter protection.
“I think we have a responsibility to do our job with this hanging over us. I think we have a responsibility to be transparent,” Forlini said.
“It’s a lack of information for people, so as clerks it’s our job to reach out to people and spread real information to be trusted resources for people, so we’re looking for an opportunity to share,” Wit said.
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