2016-12-01 / Front Page

County coffers lose in recount

State guidelines oversee process
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, takes notes in her office Tuesday afternoon during a 75-minute conference call with 81 other Michigan county clerks and the director of the state’s Bureau of Elections, Christopher Thomas, regarding an upcoming hand recount of all ballots cast in the Nov. 8 presidential election in Michigan. MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, takes notes in her office Tuesday afternoon during a 75-minute conference call with 81 other Michigan county clerks and the director of the state’s Bureau of Elections, Christopher Thomas, regarding an upcoming hand recount of all ballots cast in the Nov. 8 presidential election in Michigan. Leelanau County’s chief election official was expected to learn today exactly when and where a recount will be conducted of all 15,047 ballots cast countywide in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Following a conference call Tuesday afternoon with the director of the State Bureau of Elections and 81 other county clerks in Michigan, Leelanau County Clerk Michelle Crocker said at least one thing is clear – the actual cost of conducting the recount is likely to be at least twice as much as the amount the state will collect from those requesting the recount.

In case you hadn’t heard, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is requesting a recount of all ballots cast in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and was facing a deadline of yesterday afternoon (just hours after this newspaper’s weekly deadline) to file a petition for a recount in Michigan.

Stein had reportedly raised some $6.5 million to cover the cost of the recounts. Crocker said she was informed during Tuesday’s conference call with officials in Lansing that the state will charge the Green Party $973,000, but that the actual cost for the Michigan recount will likely exceed $2 million.

Here in Leelanau County, Crocker said, she expects to receive $2,125 from the state to conduct the recount locally, but is planning to spend more than $4,000 of county taxpayer money to make it happen.

Recounts have already been tentatively scheduled to occur Friday and Saturday in Michigan’s 19 largest counties downstate and continue through the weekend. State officials are facing a Dec. 12 deadline to certify the recount unless objections are filed.

The Electoral College meets Dec. 19 to make a final decision on who is elected the 45th President of the United States.

Crocker said the $2,125 that Leelanau County is expected to be reimbursed for its role in the recount is based on the number of voting precincts in the county and the standard charge of $125 per precinct to conduct a recount.

Although there are only 11 townships in Leelanau County, there are two precincts in the most populous township, Elmwood. In addition, a formula for absentee ballot counting boards brings the total to 17 precincts in Leelanau County.

Some precinct workers who were employed in the Nov. 8 General Election may be rehired to conduct the recount, but state law requires that they be used to count ballots from a precinct other than the one they worked in on Nov. 8.

The process will require that up to 34 election workers be hired for a full day at a rate of between $12 and $15 per hour, plus several additional hours for a training session some time before the recount is conducted. Crocker said some people already employed in her office and in the county Government Center will be used to conduct the recount.

Crocker said she will serve as the statutory “core team leader” of the local recount effort. Chief Deputy Clerk Sherry Nedow will serve as “compiler,” and the clerk’s chief staff accountant, Jennifer Zywicki, will serve as “assistant compiler.”

Crocker said she was not certain yet where the recount will be conducted, but she was hoping state officials will allow her to do so in the Community Meeting Room in the lower level of the Leelanau County Government Center. Crocker explained that in some areas of the state, several counties are being directed to conduct combined recounts at one location at one time to accommodate teams from the state Bureau of Elections that will be monitoring the recounts.

She said the exact timing and location of the Leelanau County recount will be dependent on guidance she receives from Lansing over the next few days.

Crocker noted that recounts had already been requested in two Leelanau County voting precincts regarding the District No. 5 County Commissioner seat which covers Leland and Centerville townships. Incumbent Patricia-Soutas Little, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, Dale Schaub, are both seeking recounts.

Schaub sought a recount in Centerville Township where he won by eight votes, prompting Soutas-Little to request a recount in Leland Township where she won by 24 votes.

“The Presidential recount takes precedence over the county board recount, but I’m hoping we can accomplish both on the same day to save money,” Crocker said.

She said the rules for conducting recounts are “highly regimented and specific.” She said the recount will include all votes cast for all five presidential candidates whose names appeared on the ballot in Michigan plus any write-in candidates.

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