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Few Michiganders show up to witness tests of election equipment

Logic and accuracy testing demonstrates the integrity of ballot tabulators, officials say, and more people should come to watch.

A woman in an office stands before a scanner holding a ballot

Port Huron Clerk Cyndee Jonseck feeds test ballots into a tabulator during the city’s logic and accuracy test Thursday.

Oralandar Brand-Williams/Votebeat

Leading up to Michigan’s first major election since the frenzy of 2020 election conspiracy theories, election officials are again holding public events to demonstrate their regular testing of election systems — and again are finding little interest from Michiganders in seeing the technology and the process up close.

The August primary is just days away, and clerks across the state are testing tabulators to ensure that the machines are accurate, reliable, and ready to receive the ballots from voters and properly count them. The assessments, referred to as logic and accuracy tests, are mandated by state law, as in many parts of the country. In Michigan, the tests must be conducted before each election and are open to the public.

With the country’s elections clouded in suspicion, mistrust, and misinformations, elections officials hope the public testing allays suspicion and helps renew trust in their voting process. 

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown is among Michigan clerks who strongly encourage residents to see the tests. She believes that witnessing the mock count could help dispel some of the disinformation and misinformation around elections.

“It’s open to the public,” said Brown, who noted that she advertised in the local newspaper, sent out a press release, posted on social media, and notified an email listserv. “This is a transparent operation. Come watch! Come see what we do!”

But only one local resident came to watch Monday’s test, which Brown conducted in a large conference room at the Oakland County Clerk’s Office in Pontiac. Two election workers from Hamburg Township, in Livingston County, also watched to learn more about the tabulators’ software.

With the assistance of a handful of staffers armed with about 20 computers, Brown and Oakland County Elections Director Joseph Rozell scanned test ballots to check the accuracy of 18 tabulators. Oakland election workers will use the same tabulators Tuesday to count absentee ballots for 19 communities in the county. 

A woman stands before a table of computers while a man and woman across from her look at a chart of information

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, right, watches as Elections Director Joseph Roswell goes over tabulation test results Monday with Marlene Palicz, a Walled Lake precinct delegate.

By Oralandar Brand-Williams/Votebeat

“We want to ensure the accuracy of the equipment as well as the security so we know the votes are secure,” said Brown.

Statewide, there have been no notable glitches or problems reported from local election departments’ tests of the tabulators, said Tracy Wimmer, the spokeswoman for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “None that were not correctable or indicative of anything more than initial human error that was caught and fixed,” Wimmer said.

Another test happened later in the week in Port Huron, a border city along Lake Huron in St. Clair County. City Clerk Cyndee Jonseck also said she welcomes voters to come watch the testing. “There are so many views out there about elections, and so it [the testing] brings awareness about the testing of the machines and how it’s done every election,” said Jonseck.

Although a public notice for Thursday morning’s logic and accuracy test was published in the Port Huron Times Herald and on the city’s website, no residents showed up, said Jonseck.

She was joined by her staff, Port Huron Police Chief Joseph Platzer, and Finance Director Ed Brennan, who are members of the city’s election commission, to test a tabulator for one of Port Huron’s 10 precincts.

“I just think a lot of people aren’t aware of the process,” Jonseck said, as she loaded about 30 mock ballots in the tabulator.

Jonseck tested the machine using several different scenarios on test ballots, including overvoting and inserting a blank ballot. She later compared results from  the test ballots that included votes for candidates to the tabulator’s readings.. The manual count of the test ballots and the tabulator matched up.

“We do things right here,” said Platzer. “Sitting here just watching the test and the verification shows that things are done properly.”

The police chief says the public test “shows the transparency” of the process and that the system is reliable.

In Oakland County, Brown said she also hopes the testing will lay to rest any doubt some may have about voting. “Now we have people doubting the transparency, the security of voting,” said Brown

Walled Lake resident Marlene Palicz came to Brown’s office to witness Monday’s testing. She said the visit made her “feel better” and put an end to any concerns about the counting of ballots.

“It really does show how they prove the accuracy,” Palicz, a Republican precinct delegate in her community in Oakland County, told Brown. “Thank you for this. I had no idea it was so detailed.”

Oralandar Brand-Williams is a senior reporter for Votebeat in partnership with Bridge Michigan. Contact Oralandar at obrand-williams@votebeat.org.

This article is made possible through a partnership with Bridge Michigan, Michigan’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit news publication.

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