2016-12-08 / Front Page

Security tight for recount

Leelanau to host Benzie Co.
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, inspects specially made and sealed bags containing all 15,047 ballots cast in the Nov. 8 election, now being stored in a triple-locked secure cage in the basement of the county Government Center in anticipation of Saturday’s recount. MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, inspects specially made and sealed bags containing all 15,047 ballots cast in the Nov. 8 election, now being stored in a triple-locked secure cage in the basement of the county Government Center in anticipation of Saturday’s recount. The actual process for conducting a presidential recount can seem surreal.

In fact, a trip into the basement of the Government Center to take a look at the security systems guarding 15,047 ballots feels like something from the opening scenes of the obscure 1960’s TV spy-spoof “Get Smart.”

First, you take a ride in a private passcode-protected elevator inside the clerk’s office that most members of the public aren’t aware even exists.

Then, you walk through several electronically-controlled, locked doors before you confront a caged area sealed with a hefty padlock.

The padlock may only be opened with a key that is itself kept under lock and key in a remote, concealed location on another floor of the Government Center.

And then you enter the inner sanctum where more than a dozen specially-manufactured black bags are stored, each of them sealed with a zip-tie and a laminated certificate containing sworn statements by township election officials testifying to their integrity and the fact that none of the paper ballots have been touched by human hands since the Nov. 8 election.

Barring further court challenges or delays, a hand re-count of those ballots cast in Leelanau County will be conducted on Saturday. The recount of the 2016 Presidential election would also continue throughout the state.

Earlier this week, the clerks of all 11 of Leelanau County’s townships transferred ballots to the county Government Center.

On election day, the ballots were all tallied by computerized voting machines. On Saturday morning, county employees are expected to transfer the sealed ballot bags to the Community Meeting Room on the lower level of the county Government Center where they will be unsealed and re-counted by hand.

A 24-page manual explains in detail exactly how the recount must be conducted.

In Leelanau County’s case, 11 tables will be set up with two people reviewing ballots at each table. In addition to the 22 counters, there will be two “runners,” three team leaders comprised of the county clerk, her chief deputy and another senior deputy clerk, plus two additional personnel to check people at the door.

It’s expected that observers representing both the Republican and Democratic parties will be signed-in to the counting area to observe the recount as it is underway. In addition, members of the public and the press will be allowed to observe the recount from an area of the room set aside for that purpose.

Earlier this week, Leelanau County Clerk Michelle Crocker forwarded election workers a You Tube video prepared by the Oakland County Clerk that is being used by clerks statewide to train workers who will conduct the recount. She said use of the training video will save the county money it might otherwise need to spend to conduct its own training session for election recount workers.

“We have some very experienced people who’ve done recounts before and have years of experience as township election officials coming in to help us,” Crocker explained.

They will receive $15 per hour for what is expected to be a day-long effort. In addition, county employees who are involved in the recount will likely earn some overtime pay for Saturday if they end up working more than 40 hours by the end of next week.

“We don’t have any exact dollar figures yet, but I’m trying not to spend too much up front on things like copies until we’re absolutely certain the recount is going forward,” Crocker said.

When — and if — the recount does occur, officials from neighboring Benzie County will also be visiting the Leelanau County Government Center on Saturday to conduct their own recount. Benzie’s recount will occur in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room on the main floor of the Government Center at the same time Leelanau ballots are being recounted downstairs.

Throughout the state, a number of counties have been asked to conduct recounts at the same location at the same time to accommodate teams from the State Bureau of Elections who will be present to oversee the effort.

Crocker noted that a recount of votes in the District No. 5 Leelanau County Commissioner race had already been requested and scheduled. District No. 5 includes Leland and Centerville townships.

“That’s why at Saturday’s recount, we’ll be recounting ballots from Leland and Centerville townships last,” Crocker said. “We will need to unseal the ballot bags only once and will have the right people in place to conduct our own local recount – and that will save us a little money,” she said.

Although Patricia Soutas-Little won re-election to her seat as the District No. 5 county commissioner, the race was close. Her opponent, Dale Schaub, sought a recount in Leland Township where Soutas-Little won by 24 votes. Soutas-Little then requested a recount in Centerville Township where Schaub won by eight votes.

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Just a waste of time and

Just a waste of time and taxpayers money. Backhanded ploy to stifle due process for the rest of the country by the whining democrats!!!