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Audit finds workers counted ballots accurately
​ Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that all of the state’s more than 250 election audits are complete, and every one of them confirmed the integrity and accuracy of the 2020 general election. The audit process drew tremendous support and complete transparency from county, city and township clerks. In all, more than 1,300 Republican, Democrat and nonpartisan clerks, as well as the state Bureau of Elections, participated in at least one audit.
  “Over the last several months, the state Bureau of Elections has worked with local clerks to conduct more audits than ever before in our state’s history, and each has reaffirmed the accuracy, security and integrity of the November 2020 election,” said Benson. “We’ve responded to every question and claim and the evidence is clear. It is time for leaders across the political spectrum to tell their constituents the truth, that our election was the most secure in history, and the results accurately reflect the will of Michigan’s voters.”
  In addition to the hundreds of audits of local election precincts – the majority of which were conducted by county clerks of both parties – officials also audited every ballot cast for president in Antrim County and found that the Dominion machines used there accurately counted ballots throughout the county. Officials also conducted a statewide audit exercise, by hand-counting votes cast for president on more than 18,000 ballots randomly selected across the state, which affirmed the outcome of the presidential election as previously determined by tabulation machines.
  An audit of Detroit’s absentee ballot counting board, which has been attacked repeatedly with lies, baseless conspiracy theories and the misleading claims of people lacking knowledge of election procedure, found that while clerical errors had occurred, election workers supervised by the clerk’s office properly counted 174,000 valid ballots that corresponded to signed envelopes that were submitted by registered voters and reviewed by the clerk’s office.
  Further, auditors found that 83 percent of the counting boards were balanced or explained, up from 27 percent at the close of the county canvass. This means that in each of those boards the number of ballots matched the number of names in the poll book, or that the imbalance could be explained in such a way that the counting board would be recountable. Auditors also found that the net number of ballots out of balance for the entire board was just 17 out of the 174,000 absentee ballots counted in Detroit.
  Auditors made similar findings in audits of other cities’ absentee ballot counting boards, including:
• In Grand Rapids, 87 percent were balanced or explained, compared to 62 percent at the end of the canvass. The final net number of ballots out of balance was eight.
• In Livonia, 77 percent were balanced or explained, compared to 34 percent at the end of the canvass. The final net number of ballots out of balance was one.
In Sterling Heights, 71 percent were balanced or explained, compared to 58 percent at the end of the canvass. The final net number of ballots out of balance was four.
  Further, the Sterling Heights audit was the first absentee ballot counting board ever audited in the state. Valuable lessons were learned throughout the counting board audit process, and it is expected that auditors would have balanced or explained more boards at Sterling Heights if that audit was conducted later in the process. The Bureau of Elections is drafting a final report on audit findings, which will be made available publicly.
  Out-of-balance precincts are common across the state and nation, and essentially represent clerical errors where an election official failed to note that a voter at the polls checked in and then left with their ballot in hand, or a couple mailed their two absentee ballots in one envelope. Such errors are often corrected or explained in the county canvass, but time constraints make that more difficult, especially in high-population jurisdictions. 
  “If state lawmakers truly want to affirm faith in our elections, they will provide more time to election officials to process absentee ballots before Election Day, and canvass them afterwards, just as I’ve proposed in my legislative agenda to advance the vote and protect democracy,” said Benson. “Had they done this prior to November, after clerks and I asked them to for more than a year, they could have pre-emptively debunked many of the lies that have since attacked our democracy.”
     Secretary Benson announced her legislative agenda for elections – Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy – last month. In addition to calling for two weeks for election officials to process ballots before Election Day, and an additional week to canvass afterwards, she proposed changing the law that prevents precincts that are out of balance without explanation from being recounted. Michigan is one of the only states in the country with such a restriction in place.

By Stacy M. Brown, 
NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
  State lawmakers in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and other jurisdictions who continue to enact local voter suppression laws were put on notice by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who passed a sweeping elections and ethics bill on Wednesday.
  House Resolution 1 – the “For the People Act of 2021” – counts as a strong rebuke and counterbalance to voting restrictions considered or enacted in various Republican-led states across the country. It restricts partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and nullifies obstacles for voters.
  Further, the bill demands campaign finance clarity.
  Top Democrats said the bill focuses on stopping corruption, expanding voting access, and improving accountability.
  “Our purpose was to remove obstacles of participation for Democrats or Republicans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared. “That is what the law requires. That was the right thing to do. That’s what this legislation does.”
  The bill’s passage, which now heads to the Democrat-controlled Senate, comes as the Supreme Court is poised to rule on two election rules from Arizona that could impose even more limits on the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
  The cases involve the return of absentee ballots and out-of-precinct provisional ballots.
  Democrats and others believe that if the court sides with Arizona Republicans, it would dismantle another Voting Rights Act section.
  GOP lawmakers in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have all pushed for laws that would disproportionately impact voting rights, particularly those of African Americans.
  According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, state lawmakers across the U.S. have filed more than 200 bills in 43 states that would limit ballot access.
  Two pieces of legislation making their way to the state Senate in Georgia would restrict voting access by ending automatic voter registration, banning drop boxes for mail-in ballots, and eliminate much of the state’s absentee voting.
  Legislation in the Peach State would also significantly reduce early voting on weekends and essentially halt the “Souls to the Polls’ movement, a tradition for Black voters after leaving church on Sundays.
  Many view that effort as a response to President Joe Biden winning Georgia in 2020 and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff – both Democrats – capturing the Senate.
  The U.S. House’s “For the People Act of 2021” automatically registers voters and provides voting rights to felons.
  It also mandates more than two weeks of early voting, offers voting-by-mail, and expands absentee ballot drop boxes all over the country.
  Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats have repeatedly shot down false claims by Republicans – particularly former President Donald Trump – of widespread voter fraud.
  They’ve noted that Trump and the GOP have targeted African American voters, ramping up rhetoric about fraud and conspiracy theories, specifically in heavily populated Black areas like Atlanta and Fulton County, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  Regardless of political affiliation, voting should be easily accessible, Speaker Pelosi stated.
  However, the Speaker and others have maintained that Republicans are targeting minorities.
  “They are not even coy about it. They are saying the ‘quiet parts’ out loud,” Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, a left-leaning group that aims to curtail the influence of corporate money in politics, told the Associated Press. “For them, this isn’t about protecting our democracy or protecting our elections.”
  She noted that GOP’s voter suppression tactics are solely for partisan political gain.
  “The anti-democratic forces in the Republican Party have focused their energy on peddling unwarranted and expensive voter restriction measures,” Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her 2018 Georgia bid to become the first Black female governor in U.S. history, told the Associated Press.
  “We all have a right to take our seat at the table and our place at the ballot box,” Abrams exclaimed.
  Despite the House’s action, the bill may be difficult to pass in the Senate, which is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.
  Unlike some bills that can pass through a process called reconciliation, the voting rights bill in its current form would need 60 “yes” votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.
  That means every Democrat must vote in favor of the measure, and 10 Republicans need to join them.
  “When you look at what Republicans are doing across the country in statehouses to roll back access to the ballot box, we need to do what we can to establish baseline standards and best practices that allow people to register and vote in America without it being an obstacle course for them,” stated Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Maryland), the bill’s lead sponsor.
  “We may not get the opportunity to make this change again for many, many decades. Shame on us if we don’t get this done.”

U.S. House of Representatives passes milestone voting and ethics legislation