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Recount hits snag with discovery of "unsecured" ballots

The ballot containers that Harbor Springs had been using are called into question about how secure they are.

The effort to recount the November 8th election results in Harbor Springs hit an unexpected snag on the day the recount was supposed to begin. At question were the results pertaining to the animal enclosure ballot proposal which essentially would have shut down the current deer park which has been a landmark in town for decades. The proposal failed by 6 votes, and a recall request was made.

That recount was supposed to begin on Monday, but was suddenly deemed not allowable. Below is a statement from Tom Richards the City Manager of Harbor Springs regarding the decision.

"We’ve learned that a recount of the November 8 “Proposal to Prohibit Wild Animal Enclosures” will not be permitted because of the State Election Commission’s strict and questionable standard regarding the ballot storage canisters. Harbor Springs staff has handled our voter’s ballots in complete compliance with all the security practices that we’ve gained from regular election training courses and from all of the guidance we’ve received from County and State election officials. On election night, after the votes were electronically counted and reported, all of our voter’s ballots were placed into an approved security bag and locked with a special tamper-proof seal.

The bag was then placed into a government specified ballot canister, which was then locked with a second, tamper-proof seal. The canister was then stored in a secure area of City Hall until the County Clerk notified us of a recount. As directed by the County Clerk, the ballots were then transported (inside the sealed canister) to the County for secure storage until the recount. We’ve now learned that our ballot canisters (which have been used for many years) no longer meet’s the State’s unexplainable security standards, because it still has a slot where punch-card ballots could be inserted, years ago. City staff has never been made aware that these canisters are no longer compliant or that the specifications have changed.

If not for the recount (the first recount that any member of City Staff can recall) we might never have been made aware that the security requirements have been revised. Any suggestion that these ballots could have been accessed, tampered with or altered in way would have to ignore all of the extreme security measures that are taken with every election. Every security step we gain from County and State Election officials are routinely followed, to the letter.

When the State’s revised ballot storage requirements are clear, the City will immediately replace its ballot canisters to comply with the newest specifications. If there is anyone with credible evidence that this or any election was not properly conducted or that the votes were not accurately counted or reported, we would encourage that person to report what they know to the City or the County so that the matter can be properly investigated. We were looking forward to the results of this recount… to confirm that the vote results were exactly as reported by the City staff. The City will continue to take every step required to maintain the voters’ confidence in the precision and accuracy of the results for every election."

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