Canvassers fail to certify recall election results

ESCANABA — Swearing in ceremonies for the winners of the Delta County Board of Commissioners recall election held last week and a reorganizational meeting that was planned for Wednesday were scrapped Tuesday evening, after the Delta County Board of Canvassers failed to certify the election results.

“They’re basing their decision on the ratio of the votes, because two of (the races) have the exact same ratio and the third one was a similar ratio, so they think that that shows that the machines were somehow programmed with (an) algorithm,” said Delta County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki.

The results of the May 7 election were unusually consistent, with challengers Kelli Van Ginhoven and Matt Jensen each receiving 72% of the vote in their respective races, to incumbent commissioners Dave Moyle’s and Bob Petersen’s 27%. In the race between challenger Myra Croasdell and Incumbent Commissioner Bob Barron, the percentages were 73% and 26%, respectively.

Such results are atypical across races in elections for a number of reasons, including differences between the candidates, population density, and the cultural factors that make people choose to live in more- or less-populated areas.

But just because the results were unusual doesn’t mean they were wrong.

“I tried to tell them that the machines have been tested and the results came out exactly as they should. I have every confidence in our voting equipment because it’s always tested and in the recounts and the audits we have done, the ballot hand count has always come out exactly very close to … the tabulator results,” said Przewrocki.

It is also not the place of the board of canvassers to take results into account when deciding to certify the election. They serve a more administrative role, doing things like comparing the precinct poll books to reports from the precincts to look for internal consistency in the number of votes cast. According to Przewrocki, there were no inconsistencies that would warrant the election not being certified.

That didn’t stop two Republican canvassers from voting against the certification Tuesday. Bonnie Hakkola, who also serves as the local Republican party chair, and LeeAnne Oman, an alternate canvasser who also serves as the local Republican party secretary, both voted not to certify — splitting the board of canvassers 2-2 and blocking the certification.

A second meeting of the board of canvassers has been set for Monday at 9 a.m. It is possible that Oman would not participate in that hearing if Sema Deeds — the Republican canvasser Oman replaced Tuesday — is present. Deeds was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting due to illness.

It is unlikely that Hakkola’s vote will change. A press release dated Monday but sent to the Daily Press late Tuesday by her son, Seth Hakkola, indicates local citizens working with members of Michigan-based groups that deny the validity of the 2020 presidential election have “identified certain statistical anomalies and suspicious voting ratios.”

Specifically, the release references local citizens working with Joanna Bakale, a prominent member of the Election Integrity Force, who is perhaps best known for advising poll watchers to call 911 if they see suspicious activity around voting machines in 2022; Citizens for Electoral Justice member Scott Aughney, a self-described “independent election investigator and whistleblower” who attempted to obtain a copy of Escanaba’s electronic poll book raw data file through a failed Freedom of Information Act request last year; and Former Republican State Senator Patrick Colbeck, of Michigan’s 7th District.

The release states the local citizens are “formally requesting a hand recount and forensic audit of the results.” According to Przewrocki, Hakkola had also requested a hand recount, but the board of canvassers is not authorized by law to conduct recounts as part of the certification process.

“I would love to do a hand count just to show them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with our tabulators,” said Przewrocki.

A recount of the ballots could still take place, but only after the election is certified. If it were to happen, it would have to be at the request of one of the candidates.

Technically speaking, Moyle, Petersen and Barron still serve as the county’s commissioners until their replacements can be put in place. If the election is not certified Monday, those board members would have to vote whether or not to hold the regularly scheduled meeting slated for Tuesday.

However, if the election is not certified Monday, there could be bigger issues. The certification process would be taken over by the State Board of Canvassers, which means Przewrocki and other local clerks would have to travel downstate with the ballots, election machines, poll books, and all other necessary documents and equipment to certify the election.

“Everything that we would have at our fingertips doing it here locally, we would have to bring downstate with us in case there needs to be a retabulation,” said Przewrocki.

The cost of the canvassing would also fall on the county.

Until the certification, Van Ginhoven, Croasdell, and Jensen cannot be sworn in and a reorganizational meeting cannot be held. Jensen and Croasdell were expected to be sworn in Wednesday morning and Van Ginhoven was slated to be sworn in Monday, but all three ceremonies have been postponed. A reorganizational meeting also set for Wednesday was postponed, pending the certification.


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