Op/Ed: Elections Challengers ensure a fair voting process for all: Detroit Primary Elections 2013

Photo Credit – NBC Latino

IU News & Talk Op/Ed
By: Monica Ross-Williams

As a small public office elected official in my community, I volunteered to participate as a Election Challenger during Detroit’s Primary Election, August 6, 2013. My decision was based on two factors of now public record.

1). How the Statutorial City Charter voted by a majority of Detroit Voting Populace in November 2012 was overpass by at least two members of the City Board of Canvassers. The issue focused on residency requirements were a perspective candidate for public office was required to stay within Detroit City Limits for one year or 365 days in totality.

One candidate for office at the time, Mike Duggan, did not meet the Statutorial City Charter requirements. The Board of Canvassers two members disavowed the Charter Statutory Language and affirmed the potential candidate rights for inclusion on Detroit’s Official Ballot. Two Judicial Courts of Law denied the majority decision rendered by Detroit Board of Canvassers. The Judicial Courts of Review made the right decision.

Michigan Election Statutory Laws allowed for Mike Duggan to engage in Write-In Candidacy for Mayor in Detroit. State Election Law Statutory language on this matter was clear. Rules associated with an write-in candidacy quest initially, in the State of Michigan, were followed.

2). Leading to my decision to volunteer as a election challenger in Detroit’s Primary Election were claims in 2009 Mayoral Election by candidate Tom Barrow of irregularities causing up to 60,000 votes to be nullified and voided. Specifically, in this case Mr. Barrow claimed seals on cases used to transport and transfer ballots contained two different sets of numbers. One number on the election poll books and another on the sealed case.

According to Michigan Election Law, ballots subject to the types of grave errors described above are voided and cannot be recounted. As a small office elected official in my local Michigan community, I firmly believe a civil service duty for all elected officials is to ensure a fair electoral process exist for all candidate vying to serve a local community or in statewide office.
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On August 6, 2013, I volunteered for the Citizens for Detroit Future Organization to work as a elections challenger. Initially, I was assigned to Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan were City Absentee ballots tabulation process took place. Later in the day, my location changed to Denby High School monitoring Precincts #40, #59 and #39.

Although I firmly believe Election Inspectors at Denby performed the task assigned to the best of their ability, the following issues should be addressed to ensure a fair elections process takes place for voters and perspective candidates vying for elected office in the future.

* Voters are required to maintain ballots inside the “secrecy sleeves” until processed inside the official tabulator machine. Otherwise, members of the public and Election Inspectors are possibly subject to knowledge on particular voter candidate(s) selection.

* Be knowledgeable on Michigan Election Laws as it relates to Election Challengers. Election Challengers are allowed by law to come behind the tables where Election Inspectors perform their duties.

Election Challengers can observe any process involved with certification of the election at the precincts assigned. Election Inspectors should comply with reasonable requests by Election Challengers to observe the entire process of the Election. If Elections Inspectors are unsure on a particular procedure or statutory law of an Election Challenger Authority, contact the Local Clerk or State of Michigan Department of Elections Office in Lansing, Michigan to confirm.

* In the case of Detroit’s Primary Election on August 6, 2013, two write-in candidates were known to be vying for the office of Mayor: Mike Duggan and Mike Dugeon. Due to this factor of importance, Elections Challengers must review each write-in ballot to ensure fully compliance with State Election Law and for the write-in candidate’s ballots were counted fairly. An Election Challenger(s) duties include ensuring each write-in candidate selection by voters were properly recorded.

Although I did not experience the following scenario at the Denby High School Location in Precincts #40, #39 and #59, I heard other Election Challengers were denied opportunities to review fully review each Write-In Ballot. This is concerning and if true would be in error. Thus, this action should be immediately corrected by Detroit’s General Election on November 5, 2013 and beyond.

*Elections Inspectors should make all efforts to be precise when verifying the vitality of Write-In Ballots. For a Write-In Ballot to count as an vital vote cast for a candidate, the written ballot dictation must be the same name certified by the Clerk’s office on the candidate “Letter of Intent” to wage a write-in candidacy. Any variations of the candidate name or misspellings is counted as an unassigned write-in vote cast.

* Three copies of the final tabulation tape of votes cast should be made available by each precinct after all procedures required certifying polling location votes are performed. The first copy is certified by signatures by all Elections Inspectors and the Supervisor are forwarded with a seal to the City, Township, Village or County Office.

The second is posted outside the voting location for a courtesy time period up to 24 hours for members of the public can review and all Elections Inspector/Supervisors should sign this for certification.

The final tabulator copy is made available for public review at the local or if necessary county Clerks office, or at the local Department of Elections, and all Elections Inspector/Supervisors should sign in certification of the vote.

-Finally, Elections Challengers should not expect to be compensated for performing this vital civil service duty. Although some organizations do pay Election Challengers this practice is not the normal course of operations.

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