the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Odd Michigan Law

Posted by Jeff Id on December 16, 2020

So my Wife discovered that Michigan doesn’t do recounts if the poll book (book recording who voted) doesn’t match the number of votes. They claim it is illegal to do so. We found the law on the matter and while it seems clear to me, it doesn’t match what we’re being told is standard practice.

Sec. 871. (1) The board of canvassers conducting a recount pursuant to this chapter shall recount all ballots of a precinct using an electronic voting system unless 1 or more of the following circumstances exist:

(a) The seal on the transfer case or other ballot container is broken or bears a different number than that recorded on the poll book, the breaking or discrepancy is not explained to the satisfaction of the board of canvassers, and security of the ballots has not been otherwise preserved.

(b) The number of ballots to be recounted and the number of ballots issued on election day as shown on the poll list or the computer printout do not match and the difference is not explained to the satisfaction of the board of canvassers.

(c) The seal used to seal the ballot label assembly to a voting device in the precinct is broken or bears a different number than that recorded in poll records and the ballot labels or rotation of candidates’ names is different than that shown by other voting devices in the precinct and records of the board of election commissioners.

(2) This section does not prohibit the recounting of absent voter ballots tallied in a precinct using an absent voter counting board or in a precinct in which 1 or more voting machines are recountable, if the absent voter ballots are securely packaged and sealed.

(3) If a board of canvassers conducting a recount pursuant to this chapter determines that the ballots of a precinct are not eligible for recount under this section, the original return of the votes for that precinct shall be taken as correct.

(4) A board of canvassers conducting a recount pursuant to this chapter may conduct a recount by the following means:(a) A manual tally of the ballots.

(b) A tabulation of the ballots on a computer using a software application designed to specifically count only the office or ballot question subject to the recount.

(c) A tabulation of the ballots on a computer using the same software application used in the precinct on election day.

(d) Any combination of methods in subdivision (a), (b), or (c), as determined appropriate by the board of canvassers.

(5) If a board of canvassers conducting a recount pursuant to this chapter intends to conduct a recount on a computer, the board of canvassers shall first test the software application by use of a test deck to determine if the program accurately counts the votes for the office or ballot question subject to the recount. If the test under this subsection fails to show that the software application accurately counts the votes for the office or ballot question subject to the recount, the board of canvassers shall use another means prescribed in subsection (4) to conduct the recount.

History: 1954, Act 116, Eff. June 1, 1955

 

My confusion is that this law section 1 states the reasons you cannot use electronics to recount the vote if any of the below conditions are met. One of which is when poll books don’t match vote count. The rule does not explicitly say that you cannot count the vote manually.

Numerous papers have made the claim through others that it is illegal to recount the vote of any precinct which is out of balance.

Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum told The Michigan Daily that while some precincts are out of balance due to human error during elections, it does not influence the outcome. 

“Out-of-balance problems are extremely minor and don’t affect vote counts,” Kestenbaim said. “What they do affect is whether a precinct is considered ‘recountable’ under Michigan’s peculiar law, (and) if a recount were to be held, the out-of-balance precincts could not be recounted, and the original vote totals from election night would be used.”

Not sure if this is just a mode of practice or I’m misreading the law.  

Why this matters!

This matters because if you were a nefarious person, I know you are not, but if you were you were you would simply put the votes in that you want, and then make sure that the precinct is out of balance so your activities will not be checked.

Any thoughts or help would be appreciated.


Edit: When I say – put in the votes, this is a process which can be manually entered or the votes can simply be re-fed into the machine.


4 Responses to “Odd Michigan Law”

  1. mkaastrup said

    Not sure if your question is a trick question, but the answer is this:
    a) Of course you can do a manual re-count. The law forbids machine recounts only, and forbids it under circumstances where clearly a machine recount would not be accurate, and/or would not be able to find the errors that a recount should fint.
    b) Of course a manual recount would only be illegal if it said in the law that a manual recount was illegal.
    c) And even if the law said that, that law would be null and void since it’s obvious there are situations where a manual recount is necessary.

    • Jeff Id said

      Nope, not a trick. I’m seriously confused why folks are saying that the law does not allow a recount when votes counted don’t match the voters, but when I read the law it doesn’t say that at all. It’s a big deal too because if that is how the law is being practiced, it would provide easily available cover for nefarious types.

  2. pauligon59 said

    “(1) The board of canvassers conducting a recount pursuant to this chapter shall recount all ballots of a precinct using an electronic voting system…”

    I think the conclusions all depend on how the quoted statement is interpreted. I can see at least two possible interpretations: 1) Recount shall be done using an electronic voting system or 2) recount all ballots of only those precincts using an electronic voting system. If the correct interpretation is 1) then what mkaastrup said applies. If its 2) then the law would say that you cannot do a recount when things are out of whack with the records.

    I suspect the papers are failing to do any sanity checks on how they are intepreting the language as interpretation 2) (the one they appear to be using) is nonsensical for a law: why on earth would you prohibit recounts when the records obviously show that something is amiss with the actual count? So the only logical interpretation is 1).

    At least in my humble opinion (but ‘m not a lawyer, so who knows?)

  3. jinghis said

    It appears to be a chain of custody question, more than a question of voting machine accuracy.

    Also everyone should check out EdwardSolomon on Youtube, he cracked the algorithm they use to “balance” the votes for their favored candidate.

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