michigan election processElections in Michigan are run according to State law and administered by the local clerk. The Kentwood City Clerk's Office is responsible for administering elections in Kentwood under the direction of the Michigan Secretary of State and the Kent County Clerk. Great care is taken by local and county clerks to ensure the election process in Michigan is secure, accurate, fair, and transparent.
- Ballot Proofs: The Kent County Clerk's Office creates the ballot templates that are submitted to the Secretary of State's Office for approval and to local clerks for verification
- Paper Ballots: Paper ballots ensure that there is a physical record of votes cast that can be verified during an audit or recount
Ballot Tabulator Programming and Testing
- Programming Ballot Tabulators: Kent County oversees the programming for both in-person and absentee ballot tabulators
- Programming Cards Under Seal: The programming cards are placed in the tabulators and secured with a numbered State seal which is verified on election day
- Testing Ballot Tabulators: The City Clerk creates test ballots for every precinct that are run as a preliminary test election to verify that the votes are being counted correctly and the tabulator recognizes ballot markings and ballot marking errors
- Public Testing of Ballot Tabulators: A Public Accuracy Test is held on one tabulator for each ballot style where the public can attend and view the process of testing the election tabulators and the test is verified by the local Election Commission
Voter Registration - Qualified Voter File
- Voter Registration Database: Voter information is maintained in the Michigan Qualified Voter File, a database administered by the Secretary of State's Office. Voter information does not include political party affiliation.
- Updates to Kentwood Voter Registration Data: Authorized users in the Kentwood Clerk's Office can add, edit, and cancel Kentwood voter records at the request of the voter and in accordance with State law. Authorized users have completed State training and use multi-layer security logins to access the Qualified Voter File.
- Issuing Absentee Ballots: Absentee ballots are issued and recorded in the Qualified Voter File, where the applicant is confirmed as an eligible voter and their signature is verified both when the ballot is requested and returned
- Signature Verification: The voter signature is verified against the driver license record and must be clearly similar in style but not exact. If a signature does not match, the voter is contacted as quickly as possible and given the opportunity to correct the issue.
- Security of Absentee Ballots: When an absentee ballot is returned to the Clerk's Office it is marked as received in QVF (this information is available to the voter at www.michigan.gov/vote). The ballots are kept in trays by precinct in a locked room within the gated City Clerk's Office. Ballots never leave City Hall and are stored until processed on Election Day.
- Tabulating Absentee Ballots: Election workers from both major political parties work together on Election Day to open the ballot envelopes and run the ballots through the tabulators at City Hall. Kentwood uses high speed scanners for absentee ballots in a system that is not connected to the internet. A results report is created at the beginning of the day to show that all results are zero and no ballots have been recorded prior to Election Day.
- Balancing Absentee Ballots: The Clerk's Office provides a QVF report of all absentee ballots received for each precinct to verify that the number of ballots received by the Clerk's Office equals the number of ballots run through the tabulator. There are two separate systems - the Qualified Voter File and the tabulator - that must be in balance.
- Storage of Ballots and Ballot Envelopes: Once all ballots have been tabulated, the ballots are placed in ballot containers that are signed and sealed by one Republican and one Democratic election inspector. The absentee ballot envelopes are stored in a similar manner in separate containers. They are placed in a locked storage room at City Hall.
Voting In Person on Election Day
- Issuing In-Person Ballots: The computer at each voting precinct holds the Electronic Poll Book, which contains registered voter information downloaded from the Qualified Voter File after 4 pm the day prior to the election. This ensures the most up-to-date information is available about voters, including if they have been issued or have returned an absentee ballot. Ballots are issued in the Electronic Poll Book, where the voter's photo ID is verified and they are confirmed as an eligible voter. The EPB is not connected to the internet.
- In-Person Votes Tabulated: Election workers from both major political parties begin the day by running a tabulator results tape to show that all results are zero and no ballots have been recorded prior to Election Day. Each voter places their completed ballot in the tabulator which records all votes marked on the ballot as well as keeping a tally of the number of ballots cast. The tabulator display includes a counter that reflects each ballot cast. Tabulators are not connected to the internet.
- Balancing of In-Person Votes: After the polls close at 8 pm and all eligible votes are cast, the tabulator results are produced. The number of ballots cast in the tabulator must equal the number of ballots issued in the Electronic Poll Book.
- Storage of Ballots: Once all ballots have been tabulated, they are placed in an approved ballot container that is signed and sealed by one Republican and one Democratic election inspector. The ballots are returned to City Hall on Election night and placed in a locked storage room.
Public Election Process; Private Ballot
- Election Challengers and Poll Watchers: On Election Day, all processes are public and open for viewing by appointed election challengers and public poll watchers. There are laws that apply to both groups to protect the rights of both the voters and those who are observing the process.
- Right to a Private Ballot: The Michigan Constitution, Article 2, Section 4, gives Michigan voters "the right, once registered, to vote a secret ballot in all elections." A voter is issued a ballot with a numbered stub to allow for tracking prior to the ballot being voted. Once the ballot is voted, both in-person or absentee, the ballot is placed in a secrecy sleeve. The poll worker verifies the ballot number belongs to the voter and removes the numbered stub prior to the tabulation of the ballot. This ensures that the ballot remains private and there is no record that ties an individual voter to specific votes.
Reporting Results to Kent County
- Receiving Board Verification: On Election night two workers from each precinct report to City Hall for final verification. The Receiving Board (one Republican and one Democrat) completes a checklist that includes verifying the ballots have been stored and sealed properly, the list of voters balances with the number of ballots tabulated, and all paper reports have been completed.
- Unofficial Results: After Receiving Board verification, preliminary results may be sent electronically to Kent County and posted on the County website (www.accesskent.com/departments/elections/) as Unofficial Results as a way to quickly provide preliminary election results. However, even the preliminary results will not be posted until all in-person precincts and absentee results are complete.
- Hand Delivery of Results Reports: When all in-person and absentee ballot processing is completed, the City Clerk delivers the paper results reports to Kent County, along with the paper poll books and lists of voters. The paper results are used in the verification process in the two weeks following the election and are the Official Election Results.
Post-Election Day Verification
- Canvass of County Election Results: Immediately following the election, the Kent County Board of Canvassers, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, review the results for every precinct in Kent County. They verify that the precincts are in balance and use the paper results reports produced on Election Day to verify the Official Election Results. The Canvassers will request an explanation of any discrepancies and retabulate ballots from a precinct if a discrepancy cannot be resolved.
- Recounts: By State law, a recount cannot be requested until the State Board of Canvassers has certified the official election results. Recounts can only be requested by a candidate that has been aggrieved by the outcome of the election. There is a fee to conduct a recount that is reimbursed to the candidate if the outcome of the election is changed by the recount. The local or county clerk does not have the authority to conduct a recount unless requested by a candidate.
- Post-Election Audits: After an election various audits are conducted. Kent County audits a randomly selected group of precincts, which includes reviewing the conduct of the election as well as the election results. The audit includes everything from verifying the election workers represent both major political parties and were properly trained to hand-counting up to three contests on the ballot to verify results. For State-wide elections, the State also conducts a risk-limiting audit, where municipalities pull a statistical sampling of ballots and hand record and report the votes. When compiled, this random sampling throughout the State will mirror the full election results. The State Bureau of Elections also reviews voter records after the election to look for any irregularities. The local clerk may be asked to provide copies of ballot applications, voter affidavits, or absentee ballot envelopes for affected voters.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCESMichigan Senate Oversight Committee report of findings from November 2020 Presidential Election
Michigan Bureau of Elections Post Election Audit Report for November 2020 Presidential Election
Michigan Office of the Auditor General 2020 Bureau of Elections Performance Audit
Michigan Secretary of State: Election Security in Michigan
Michigan Secretary of State: Election Fact Checks