With goal of trust, Ottawa Co. publishes election audit report

Elections

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ottawa County Clerk’s Office is releasing findings from its post-election audits in an effort to further educate voters, breaking down exactly how precise the vote count was and what will be done to fix hiccups in the future.

Verifying the Vote, a 14-page document highlighting the process and findings, was put together in response to countless questions surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

“If our system of government is to work properly, it must be built upon a foundation of trust in the method by which we choose our government. That trust must begin with transparency and accountability on the part of election officials,” Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck wrote in the report’s introduction.

In addition to thoroughly explaining how an audit is conducted, the report also lists outcomes and takeaways from the 19 precincts examined.

“We just thought that showcasing the audit was a good way to kind of lay out for people, this is how our elections look from behind the scenes and these are the measures that go into making a successful and secure election,” Roebuck told News 8 Tuesday. 

Each outcome was given a letter grade. Those that rated below an A included next steps like additional training, for example.

Of seven procedures, four received an A+. Two received a B+. The lowest rating was a B, issued because “Absentee Voter Counting Board precincts provided more applications to the County than there were voters in those precincts.

“The reason for this discrepancy is because not every voter who receives an absentee ballot returns their ballot to the local clerk. Some voters choose to vote in person. Some voters choose not to vote at all,” the report explains.

To resolve the discrepancy, the report said the county would begin requiring “local clerks to separate applications for voters who returned a ballot from voters who did not return a ballot.”

The audits in Ottawa County were among 250 conducted statewide. Roebuck’s team took the extra step of breaking down its audit results in the report so they would be easier for the public to understand.

“I would love to see more communities get on board with, you know, sharing those findings because I think a huge part of our responsibility in building trust is to be able to be accountable and transparent,” the clerk said.

Roebuck, a Republican, became vocal in the weeks following the November election. He has long advocated for election reform while also defending the process when it was catapulted to a national stage by quickly debunked fraud claims.

Noted in the Verifying the Vote report is his office’s intention to work with the state on legislation that would reduce the number of absentee applications a voter receives ahead of an election. 

Reform surrounding no-reason absentee voting, which Michiganders approved by more than 65% in 2018, has become a focus in GOP-sponsored bills introduced in Lansing last month.

While Roebuck said that while some of lawmakers’ proposals offer common-sense measures, others will create hurdles for voters.

“One of the bills in that package was the movement to a 21-day canvass period. There’s another bill that would basically allow for a log of individuals who pick up ballots from a drop box… that totally makes sense, it’s a security issue. Another great bill is a training component, making sure we’re training individuals in the precincts to do certain checks to make sure the precinct balances during the day,” Roebuck explained. “If we’re going to make an election reform that would make the process better and the consequence is it may make it more challenging for me to do my job, I’m down with that. I can handle that. But I think if we’re going to make a change that would make it more difficult for people to vote… we have to really ask ourselves, what problem is this solving?”

Roebuck specifically referred to bills that would require a person to submit a copy of a license or other ID when applying for an absentee ballot and closing absentee drop boxes at 5 p.m. the day before Election Day.

“Voter impersonation is a very, very rare occurrence of election fraud. We do not have, that I’ve seen evidence of, that occurring on a wide scale. So when you’re asking for someone to present their ID, you’re essentially asking them to have the resources to get a photocopy of their ID and I know a lot of people that don’t have those resources readily available,” the clerk explained.

The bills were referred to the Senate Elections committee last month. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links