Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on Wednesday announced a new initiative to ensure every citizen gets a vote — and only one vote — in future elections. Included in that is an effort to prevent what happened in the 84th District State Representative election recount last fall, where nearly 10,000 ballots cast in Huron and Tuscola counties were not recountable because of procedural errors, the majority of which were because ballots were not properly sealed.
In an interview Wednesday, Johnson told the Tribune that what happened in the Thumb during the recount that followed the Nov. 2, 2010 isn’t uncommon. She said it’s estimated about 30 percent of ballot containers statewide are not sealed properly. Per Michigan law, if ballots are not properly secured, they cannot be included in a recount.
“That’s about the average. And it’s not really done out of malice, but it’s been done because we really didn’t have a complete system in place. … Now we will, once this legislation gets through,” said Johnson, who formerly served as Oakland County Clerk prior to being elected Michigan’s chief election official last November.
She said many precincts use a type of ballot bag that has two holes, one at the end of the zipper’s pull tag and the other at the base of the pull tab. While seals are supposed to be inserted through the hole at the base of the pull tab, many precincts had them inserted through the hole at the end of the pull tag. This results in a very tiny opening, and because of the small opening, the ballots can’t be recounted.
Johnson said the little hole at the end of the pull tag almost begs election workers to insert the seal through that hole rather than the one at the base of the zipper.
She said Michigan has very patriotic, hard working people who work on election day, and they certainly try to follow the rules, but this mistake is very easy to make. As a result, she’s working with vendors to make a cover to go over the hole on the zipper pull tab so it’s not readily available for workers to insert the seal through.
Johnson said she’s also going to require clerks to have a receiving board to look over the ballot bags and containers to ensure the ballots are sealed properly.
“I think that’s really important,” she said, noting her office will also be hitting the road to conduct training and distribute a training DVD and other written information for local clerks.