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Antrim County votes to require hand-counting election ballots; clerk worries it violates law

Dominion Voting Systems

The Antrim County Board of Commissioners voted at its most recent meeting to deny funding to prepare the county’s voting machines for an upcoming election in May.

That means the ballots will need to be counted by hand, which would violate state law, said County Clerk Sheryl Guy.

Even four days after the vote, Guy said she still wasn’t sure what to do.

“I’m sitting here holding my head in my hands, and do not have the answer,” Guy said on Monday.

The dispute arose because the voting machines are one of the subjects covered in a lawsuit over errors in the county’s tallying of results from last November’s election.

Guy had requested $5,080 to extract and preserve information on the machines that could be evidence in the lawsuit, and then prepare the machines for use in the May election.

There was, she said in documents submitted to the county commission, “no other plan available.”

Ed Boettcher, one of the county commissioners who voted against funding for the voting machines, said there was another option: buying new voting machines. But he said at about $150,000, the cost was prohibitive. And using the existing machines mentioned in the lawsuit could give the appearance of impropriety.

“It felt like our options were pretty limited,” Boettcher said. “There wasn’t a good direction to head. We’re heading in what I feel is the best one possible.”

Guy said she was talking with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections, to determine the county’s options. She said her understanding is that recounts can be done by hand, but initial ballot tallies must be done by machine.

The Secretary of State’s office did not respond to questions from WCMU News about the legality of counting votes by hand. A spokesperson for the office did say that a hand tally ballots from November’s election in Antrim County “confirmed the vote tabulation machines there were extremely accurate.”

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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