Officials: Esky election was proper
ESCANABA — Following comments made by former Escanaba City Council Member Ron Beauchamp criticizing the election that led to his ousting, election officials have come forward to give their side of the story.
“We have proper steps and procedures in place in order to fully make sure these elections are run with the utmost integrity, and we do things by the book — just to make sure these elections are accurate and everybody can have confidence that when they’re casting their vote it’s going to be tabulated,” said Escanaba City Clerk Phil DeMay.
DeMay and the Escanaba Clerk’s office came under fire at the regular city council meeting recently when Beauchamp took to the podium during a public comment period to criticize the handling of ballots during and after the Nov. 5 election. Beauchamp, who had paid to have a recount conducted Nov. 18, alleged the first bag of ballots brought out for the recount had had its security tag replaced sometime between election night and Monday’s recount. He also claimed another set of ballots was brought forth with a single ballot outside of the locked and secured bag.
“Ms. O’Connell brought up the recount and praised the clerk’s office, so I thought I’d step up the podium and let everyone know that it didn’t go as smoothly as most people think,” said Beauchamp, referencing comments made by Council Member Peggy O’Connell.
However, DeMay and County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki, both claim that, while errors were made, proper procedures were followed when mistakes were found.
“Those kinds of things (that happened), they’re human error, and they’re nothing that the local clerk can foresee happening,” said Przewrocki.
According to Przewrocki, the seal on the bag of ballots from Escanaba Precinct 4 was replaced the night of the election after the precinct’s election inspector chairperson placed the pollbook laptop; envelopes containing documents for the county clerk, board of canvassers, and the local clerk; and the election results for the precinct inside the bag. The bag was only supposed to hold voted, unvoted, and spoiled ballots.
When the bag was brought to City Hall, the error was quickly discovered. It was opened by the receiving board, the additional items were removed, and a new seal was placed on the bag and properly recorded.
“That’s part of their job. That’s why they’re there, so if something like this happens or if somebody forgets to record something or whatever, they make sure everything is (right),” said Przewrocki of the receiving board.
Przewrocki also noted two of the receiving board members were present at the recount and informed Beauchamp what had happened leading up to the bag’s seal being replaced.
As for the single ballot found outside of a locked bag, the ballot was discovered the morning after the election took place underneath a tabulating machine at Precinct 3. The ballot had been counted, and had fallen to the floor and slipped under the machine when the ballots were being removed from the machine and bagged. It was discovered when DeMay and Assistant City Clerk Tammy Weissert went to the Civic Center to remove the tabulating machines from the precinct.
When they discovered the ballot, called Przewrocki, who instructed them to place the ballot in an envelope, place a seal on it, sign the envelope with their names and an explanation of where the ballot was found, and to place the envelope in the vault with the sealed bags.
During the recount, Przewrocki informed Beauchamp and those present that the bag would have one fewer ballot inside than had been recorded. She also asked Beauchamp if he would like to proceed with the recount. He instructed her to continue.
“If the Bureau of Elections was doing the recount, they probably would have said, ‘We can’t count that. We can’t count that precinct,’ and it would have stayed at … whatever the original results were. But I wanted Ron to see the original results were accurate and when the results were tallied they came out exactly the same as what they did on election night,” said Przewrocki, who noted the stray ballot had included a vote for Beauchamp.
When all was said and done, only one ballot was improperly counted during the election. An absentee ballot, which had been marked with red pen, was not counted by the tabulating machine because the machines are not designed to process colored ink. The ballot gave Beauchamp and Tyler DuBord each one additional vote.
Ultimately, DuBord’s vote total was increased to 1,114 votes and Beauchamp’s total was increased to 977 votes as a result of the recount. Karen Moore and Michael Sattem’s vote totals — 1,147 votes and 735 votes, respectively — remained unchanged.