When my votes didn't count

The solons of our sophisticated society assure us that there is no election fraud.  Concerns about elections in which non citizens participate and fanatical partisans vote multiple times are dismissed as a paranoid right wing fantasy.  "Russian hacking" of our elections is the current grind, but our officials have not been able to demonstrate what was hacked, much less for whom, so they assure us that our votes were safe.

This last week, I got woke.

My household suffered its third assault on our ballots in four years.  Fortunately, I served as a city commissioner in Kentwood, Michigan for four years (until last fall) and had the means and the motive to trace the foul-ups to our city clerk's office.  These are people I know and trust.  They are good people who made some very human mistakes, but these effectively denied me and my wife our votes.  I wrote up the first two on the blog I kept as a city commissioner and link to them.

1. I always vote absentee.  In July 2016, my ballot return envelope had the return address of the city hall in Saline, Michigan (at the other end of the state) and would have been lost.  I, my neighbor, and 57 others noted the error and got corrected envelopes.  The fiasco was traced to a mix-up in the printing press where many cities have their ballots prepared and mailed.

2. July 2015, my wife needed to vote absentee for the first time and asked for the ballot.  The envelope to return her ballot lacked an address but happened to have our return home address so came back.  I hand-delivered it.  The clerk had reached into a box of envelopes that she thought had been stamped with the return address, but some weren't.

3. I got a call from the Kent County election clerk this last week.  The office had sent me a certificate of election to a minor office in the Libertarian Party as a precinct delegate – but I had not gotten even one vote, so the clerk apologized, as I could not be a state-approved delegate.  Well, I knew I had voted for myself on the absentee, so I insisted that he look it up in the official county log.  He stated that there were zero votes for Haas in Kentwoods 14th precinct.

So I called our city clerk, who found my original ballot, marked with my self-vote.  It seems that the precinct delegates are not considered for the  automatic "tape" that goes in on election night and is the main focus of the clerk's attention.  These minor-office elections are handled manually, and she (assistant clerk and a very nice person) had forgotten to file the paperwork.  She would correct it.

These three lapses would have resulted in votes not being counted if we had gone on vacation for a few weeks and not gotten the message in time.  It's a slipshod way of doing things.

I offer three other lapses in collecting the votes here in Michigan.

4 and 5. These are courtesy of Bill Hall, chair of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.  The absentee ballot in Laketon Township in Allegan County referred to the "two parties" instead of the three that would have included the Libertarian Party, which has just gotten major party status.  The clerk promised to try to correct the problem for the primary election.  In the second, Southfield, Michigan had similar misdirections to "two parties," but the city clerk acted insulted when the blunder was pointed out to her.

6. The irregularities ascribed to incompetent election-workers in Detroit precincts that would have voided half the vote in Nov. 2016 had the law been properly applied have been reported on but been passed off as the equivalent of hearing problems in an old folks' home.

I report these lapses to bring it home to Michigan voters that they should look critically at their election material.  Are addresses correct and present?  Are the directions correct?

We must point out to elected officials that they have to be careful about details.  Elections are too important to be left in the hands of poorly trained or sloppy clerks at the point where they are gathered.

Erwin Haas is a former flight surgeon in Vietnam, Kentwood city commissioner, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State.  He is running as a Libertarian for Michigan's 26th state Senate district.  His blog is here.

The solons of our sophisticated society assure us that there is no election fraud.  Concerns about elections in which non citizens participate and fanatical partisans vote multiple times are dismissed as a paranoid right wing fantasy.  "Russian hacking" of our elections is the current grind, but our officials have not been able to demonstrate what was hacked, much less for whom, so they assure us that our votes were safe.

This last week, I got woke.

My household suffered its third assault on our ballots in four years.  Fortunately, I served as a city commissioner in Kentwood, Michigan for four years (until last fall) and had the means and the motive to trace the foul-ups to our city clerk's office.  These are people I know and trust.  They are good people who made some very human mistakes, but these effectively denied me and my wife our votes.  I wrote up the first two on the blog I kept as a city commissioner and link to them.

1. I always vote absentee.  In July 2016, my ballot return envelope had the return address of the city hall in Saline, Michigan (at the other end of the state) and would have been lost.  I, my neighbor, and 57 others noted the error and got corrected envelopes.  The fiasco was traced to a mix-up in the printing press where many cities have their ballots prepared and mailed.

2. July 2015, my wife needed to vote absentee for the first time and asked for the ballot.  The envelope to return her ballot lacked an address but happened to have our return home address so came back.  I hand-delivered it.  The clerk had reached into a box of envelopes that she thought had been stamped with the return address, but some weren't.

3. I got a call from the Kent County election clerk this last week.  The office had sent me a certificate of election to a minor office in the Libertarian Party as a precinct delegate – but I had not gotten even one vote, so the clerk apologized, as I could not be a state-approved delegate.  Well, I knew I had voted for myself on the absentee, so I insisted that he look it up in the official county log.  He stated that there were zero votes for Haas in Kentwoods 14th precinct.

So I called our city clerk, who found my original ballot, marked with my self-vote.  It seems that the precinct delegates are not considered for the  automatic "tape" that goes in on election night and is the main focus of the clerk's attention.  These minor-office elections are handled manually, and she (assistant clerk and a very nice person) had forgotten to file the paperwork.  She would correct it.

These three lapses would have resulted in votes not being counted if we had gone on vacation for a few weeks and not gotten the message in time.  It's a slipshod way of doing things.

I offer three other lapses in collecting the votes here in Michigan.

4 and 5. These are courtesy of Bill Hall, chair of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.  The absentee ballot in Laketon Township in Allegan County referred to the "two parties" instead of the three that would have included the Libertarian Party, which has just gotten major party status.  The clerk promised to try to correct the problem for the primary election.  In the second, Southfield, Michigan had similar misdirections to "two parties," but the city clerk acted insulted when the blunder was pointed out to her.

6. The irregularities ascribed to incompetent election-workers in Detroit precincts that would have voided half the vote in Nov. 2016 had the law been properly applied have been reported on but been passed off as the equivalent of hearing problems in an old folks' home.

I report these lapses to bring it home to Michigan voters that they should look critically at their election material.  Are addresses correct and present?  Are the directions correct?

We must point out to elected officials that they have to be careful about details.  Elections are too important to be left in the hands of poorly trained or sloppy clerks at the point where they are gathered.

Erwin Haas is a former flight surgeon in Vietnam, Kentwood city commissioner, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State.  He is running as a Libertarian for Michigan's 26th state Senate district.  His blog is here.