2018-08-16 / Front Page

Sharpies count in election

Delay caused by absentee ballots
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


COUNTY CLERK Michelle Crocker, standing, instructs Glen Arbor Township election workers in how to re-count write-in ballots at a county Board of Canvassers meeting Monday morning at the county Government Center. COUNTY CLERK Michelle Crocker, standing, instructs Glen Arbor Township election workers in how to re-count write-in ballots at a county Board of Canvassers meeting Monday morning at the county Government Center. A shortage of fine-tip Sharpies and a miscount of ballots cast in Glen Arbor Township resulted in some glitches in last week’s election.

In the end, enough Sharpies were bought and the ballot count evened out.

The Aug. 7 Primary Election vote count in Leelanau County clearly went a little off course and probably won’t be certified until sometime today, Aug. 16.

The Leelanau County Board of Canvassers was slated to meet at 1:30 p.m. in the county Government Center to put the finishing touches on a vote count that officials had hoped would go more smoothly.

“Issues with all the write-in votes for Matt Morgan were what held us up the most,” explained Leelanau County Clerk Michelle Crocker.

The Democratic candidate seeking to unseat Republican 1st U.S. Congressional District Rep. Jack Bergman has garnered many times more write-in votes than he will require to win his party’s nomination.

But problems with how the write-in votes were counted, specifically in Glen Arbor Township, caused the most significant delays in finalizing the county’s overall election results, according to Crocker.

Election workers in Glen Arbor Township apparently failed to compare the number of ballots on which Morgan’s name had been written-in with a tally of votes that appear on strips of paper that cycle out of voting machines once voting is done.

“They were exactly one hundred write-in votes off,” explained Eric Lind, a Republican representative on the county Board of Canvassers and the board’s vice chairman.

Spiral “poll books” that are provided to election workers contain pages for counting up write-in votes and contain separate lines for various ways a write-in name may have been spelled. The books include boxes designed for up to five “tick marks” in each box to make it easier for poll workers to add up totals at the end of each column.

“I think what happened is that four boxes of 25 ended up being counted twice instead of once,” Lind said. “At any rate, we got it sorted out.”

The glitch was addressed at a special meeting of the Board of Canvassers at the county Government Center on Monday morning. The contingent of Glen Arbor poll workers was summoned to the meeting to “try again.”

Lind said he believes part of the solution is for townships to hire more election workers so they’re not working 18-hour days.

“After working the polls for that long, nobody’s on top of their game,” Lind said. “And it’s after the polls close when election workers really need to be functioning at their peak.”

Exact, final results of the tally were to be released after the Board of Canvassers met again this afternoon.

Another glitch related to absentee voting resulted from a need to use specific types of pens to mark ballots – fast-drying Sharpie pens. The Sharpies provided at most polling places were designed to make a thick mark, making it easier to fill in the “bubble” on a paper ballot.

The same thickness of pen, however, cannot be used to write-in names as they would create an illegible mess should a voter try to write in a candidate’s name in the space provided on the ballot.

As reports began pouring into the government center of the problem, the County Clerk dispatched one of her deputies to The Business Helper in Suttons Bay to literally buy every one of the black, fine-tip Sharpie pens in the inventory.

Crocker also sent a deputy clerk down to the Staples store in Traverse City to buy a bunch more. Then, deputy clerks fanned out around the county to distribute the fine-tip Sharpies – all on election day itself.

“You can use a ball point pen for a write-in,” Crocker explained. “But ball points sometimes ‘glob’ up. If the ballot is fed into the machine before the ‘glob’ of ink dries, it causes the machine to go crazy and shut down. So, that’s why they recommend only Sharpies for the new voting machines everybody got this year.”

Another feature of the new voting system resulted in a delay in the posting of preliminary results on the county’s website as the votes came in.

“In the past, we’ve reported the votes online on election night in a way that was customized for our own constituents,” Crocker explained. “But the new software that came with the new voting machines doesn’t break it down the same way.”

Crocker said that she and her deputies in the county Government Center tried to “customize” data to meet expectations of local citizens. But they ran into problems trying to reformat the results into the kinds of lists county residents have become accustomed to seeing on election night.

“It was the first time we’d used this new software live during an actual election, so the results weren’t posted as fast on election night and weren’t in the same format that people have gotten used to,” Crocker said.

“But I’m very confident we will have these little bugs all worked out by Nov. 6,” she added.

Return to top

The sharpies bled through to

The sharpies bled through to the back of the ballot is this going to be a problem? There was three items to vote for on the back of the ballot in centerville township i did not look to see where they bled through to the front of ballot. Wish i could of taken a picture of my ballot but don't think that is allowed at the polls.