Local clerks try to quell fears about Election Day ballot safety

Generic Vote sticker AP File Photo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Election Day is just three weeks away, but Grand Rapids’ city clerk is primed.

“We are ready for the November presidential election,” said Darlene O’Neal.

Tuesday, Grand Rapids city commissioners got an update from the task force formed after long lines and frustration in city voting precincts emerged during the 2012 election.

O’Neal, who took over as clerk in 2014, followed the Mayor Task Force on Elections’ recommendations, and is working on ways to make voting more efficient.

Next month, more election workers will be on hand, using technology to cut down on problems like voters who show up at the wrong precinct.

“Instead of having you come to a location in the precinct and stand in a line to confirm that information, we are going to allow you to remain in line and we will come to you,” explained O’Neal.

However this year, there are bigger concerns than just long lines.

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“The process itself has been called into question, I feel like more in this cycle than what I have previously seen,” said Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck.

This week, Ottawa County election workers are among those around the state reviewing voting machines, making sure they’re catching mistakes.

“This ballot is an incorrect precinct and that gives us an error message,” Roebuck explained as the machine beeped and rejected a test ballot.

“If someone were to tamper with these machines, we would catch that in the public test process. That’s really what it is designed to do,” he added.

The process doesn’t stop there.

Every voting jurisdiction holds a public accuracy test before the election. On Election Day, poll watchers from each party and others witness the process at the precinct level. And even if there’s an issue with electronics in the voting booths, Michigan has the option of paper ballots.

“We have evidence of that paper ballot and that does not lie,” added Roebuck.

As for hacking, the heart of an optic scan voting booth is a memory card. They too are checked before Election Day.

Getting inside the machine to hack them would be difficult at best. The machine and components are not connected to the internet.

“The idea that someone, whether it be overseas or in their mom’s basement somewhere is actually manipulating the physical memory card that go into the voting equipment is impossible,” said Roebuck.


Michigan Voter Information Center