By Tom Travis
Election procedures in the Aug. 4 primary were compromised by multiple “deficiencies” and “failures,” in the Flint City Clerk’s office, Genesee County Election Supervisor Doreen Fulcher alleged in a scathing Aug. 19 letter to City Clerk Inez Brown.
Many items noted flaws in handling of absentee ballots, and in the record keeping necessary to be followed while counting ballots.
Other “failures” and “deficiencies” detailed in 19 points in the five-page letter included lateness in completing results, election inspectors not being allowed to complete work, ballot containers not being sealed properly, paperwork left incomplete and tallies of votes were not completed, five ballot transfer containers with no certification and not documented, “rendering the containers un-recountable.”
Not least of the alleged failures was late delivery of ballots on Election Day to the Absentee Voter Counting Board (AVCB). Each precinct is to have an AVCB to count returned absentee ballots.
Fulcher concludes, “I strongly recommend that you reach out to Bureau of Elections to seek assistance in getting a handle on how to properly maintain an AVCB I sincerely hope that major steps will be taken to assure that such failures do not occur in the quickly approaching November 2020 General Election.”
Fulcher’s letter, obtained by East Village Magazine from multiple sources, summarized what occurred in the City Clerk’s office on Election Night and the following day.
Contacted by EVM Friday morning for her reaction, Brown stated, “I’ve received the letter but I haven’t had a chance to read through it yet.”
Letter from Genesee County Elections Supervisor to City Clerk
The letter from Fulcher to Brown, with the full list of alleged failures, can be viewed here.
Fulcher points out the ballots were delivered at 10 a.m.. “That is a full three hours of waiting which created a waste of 75 work hours that could have been used to process ballots. It was also the best time for those people to work because they had just arrived, were fully rested, and ready to take on the long day.”
The letter further states the election inspectors began the physical count of the envelopes immediately at 10 a.m. and none of the counts for any of the precincts matched the number of return ballots listed in the poll books. (A poll book is an electronic tabulation of each ballot counter on the absentee voter counting board member.)
Fulcher enumerates multiple failures in city clerk’s office on election night
Fulcher listed many violations that happened on election night in the City Clerk’s office. For examples, she reported election inspectors found the list of voters and the corresponding envelopes “were not maintained by Clerk’s staff in order whatsoever.”
The letter went on to point out that election inspectors worked from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on election day sorting and organizing envelopes so that they could discern where and why counts were off, the first precincts began tabulating ballots at approximately 5 p.m. on election night.
County Elections office reaches out to City Clerk’s office
Fulcher’s office reached out to the Flint City Clerk’s office at 1 a.m. stating they spoke by telephone with Gloria Boone, Flint elections director. “Gloria told me that the final run of envelopes had been taken into the AVCB a few minutes prior. She stated ‘we didn’t get started as early as we’d hoped’ but never offered any information as to what that meant.
Boone said that the AVCB had already completed all of the other ballots provided to them and only 300 remained to be processed.
County Elections Supervisor cites 250 hours wasted
Fulcher wrote, “That is a full 10 hours after those people reported to work. 250 work hours”, Fulcher states, “is work that is supposed to be performed by your staff prior to ballots being delivered to the AVCB at 7 a.m. on Election day, City Clerk’s election workers left to go home at 10 p.m. on election night when there still many thousands of ballots to be processed.”
Fulcher wrote to Brown, “The migration of your election inspectors continued throughout the evening and early morning until only 6 remained at 1:00 am.”
Thousands of ballots “not processed” and “not enough people to perform”
She advised that we would have results ‘in a couple of hours’. Fulcher stated in the letter that at 1 a.m. she learned that there remained thousands of ballots yet to be processed and not enough people to perform the functions.
Boone told Fulcher at 1 a.m. that “you will have results in a couple of hours” When in fact final results were not delivered to Fulcher’s office until more than fourteen hours later.
Elections Supervisor lays out timeline of lateness in obtaining results
Here is how the day after the election played out, according to Fulcher. Fulcher emailed the “full staff” of the clerk’s office at 9:27 a.m. Aug. 5 [the day after the election] asking specific questions: total number of returned absentee ballots, the total currently processed, the current status of each counting board, and an honest answer as to when the results would be provided.
Fulcher states that Brown emailed her back stating that “you would get back to me shortly.” Fulcher again emails Brown at 1:20 p.m. Fulcher states in the letter that Brown stated she was “at home changing clothes”.
Final results are not received from the city clerk’s office until 3:12 p.m. the day after the election from the clerk’s office. Fulcher said in her letter that the answers requested at 9:27 a.m. could have been given in ten minutes.
Fulcher then lays out multiple failures in the clerk’s office including lateness in completing results, election inspectors not being allowed to complete work, ballot containers not being sealed properly, paperwork left incomplete and tallies of votes were not completed, five ballot transfer containers had no certification and were not documented “rendering the containers un-recountable”.
“Regardless of the reasons for the failures within City of Flint AVCB, the fact remains that your office failed to provide the AVCB with ballots at the opening of the polls,” Fulcher wrote on the fourth page of the letter. “Further, your office failed to provide the AV ballots to the AVCB in proper order. Further, your office failed to maintain a sufficient number of election inspectors within the AVCb to process the ballots that were returned. Lastly, your office failed to have the AVCB poll books and related materials reviewed by a receiving board prior to delivery to the County Clerk’s office.”
Fulcher notes in the letter that she is aware that the City Clerk’s office is obtaining a “speed ballot tabulation system” for the November election.
However, Fulcher adds, “While that equipment will make tabulating ballots faster, the AVCB will continue to struggle and fail until such time as your office properly processes, organizes, and maintains returned AV ballots in a consistent manner. That must occur as the ballots are returned, every day leading up to election day, without fail.”
EVM assistant editor and Democracy Beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.