GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County voters were given a chance on Tuesday to have their questions, comments or concerns addressed by staff at the clerk’s office.
It was the third and final Community Conversation by Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck and Elections Coordinator Katie Sims. They wanted to make sure they leave no stone unturned before every ballot is counted.
More than 30 Ottawa County voters and an online audience joined the forum at Grand Haven’s Loutit District Library to address how their ballots are cast and counted.
“This is a critical topic, right? Everyone is concerned and cares about this issue,” Roebuck said. “For us, it’s really important just to engage and make sure that we’re providing some good info. Also, talking about some things we can be doing better in our election system and our process and then hearing from people.”
Concerns and questions for clarification ranged from poll challengers versus poll observers, confirming signatures for absentee ballots, to equipment testing and the post-election audit process.
“The election process itself — the counting of the ballots, where we’re at in precincts — that’s open to the public. … Participation is really, important observers and challengers can be a part of that process,” Roebuck said.
These forums are why Roebuck is urging his counterparts at other county and local offices to establish relationship-based connections to their constituents.
“The people who are running your election are in your community. Your ballots are being counted in your community by people who, most often, you elect. And I think it’s so important to be able to build those trust relationships and be able to have that dialogue with one another,” he said.
One concern brought up was drop boxes and surveillance. Roebuck and Sims say all 23 Ottawa County’s municipalities with drop boxes have functional surveillance cameras. Their feeds are not accessible to the public but are subject to FOIA requests.
The two said people can observe drobox activity, but can’t approach voters dropping off ballots because that could end up being voter intimidation, which is a crime under federal law.
Roebuck and Sims encourage any voter with questions, comments or concerns to reach out to their office or the office of your county clerk.
As of Tuesday, around 25,000 of Ottawa County’s 50,000 mailed absentee ballots have been returned, according to Roebuck.