Opinion | Michigan elections aren't hacked. They’re among the nation’s most secure.

Barb Byrum

Barb Byrum serves as the Ingham County Clerk

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election put a light on election security, a spotlight that is intensifying as the 2020 elections approach. More than 1,500 Michigan election officials have been focusing on election security before it became cool. This is evidenced by our decentralized process, continued use of paper ballots in the digital age, among myriad other safeguards. Our numerous checks and balances offer a level of security that many other states simply refuse to accomplish. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that thousands of civic-minded election inspectors and volunteers play an integral role in making our elections some of the most secure in the nation.  

In Michigan, all 83 County Clerks are responsible for programming the computers that run the election and tabulate votes. They do so by either programming in-house, as is done in my county, or by contracting with third-party vendors.  The local, city and township clerks test that programming in a public setting known as Public Accuracy Testing. Unfortunately, rarely does the public attend.  

Election Day operations are managed by the local clerk with thousands of precinct workers, who process voters, assist in feeding ballots into tabulators and, of course, issue the “I Voted” stickers.  

When polls close, unofficial elections results are transmitted to the county clerks who then post the unofficial results.  For most, the unofficial results are “the” results of the election. For election administrators, the election is far from over. In Michigan, all 83 county boards of canvassers, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, meet to canvass the entire election.  During the canvass meeting, which occurs by the second day after the election, the board goes through the election, making sure the number of voters that voted equals the number of ballots that were tabulated and, if they are not equal, determine what the cause was. Election Day is a busy day, so election administrators need to keep a close eye on their precincts so that irregularities can be identified and rectified.

After the canvass, election results are certified and certificates of election are sent to victorious local candidates and, in the case of millages, to the county treasurer.  Results for congressional, legislative and statewide elections are transmitted to the Secretary of State for certification or review at the State Board of Canvasser level. 

The job is still not done, as there is always the possibility for a recount.  This safeguard is a hand recount (not a re-tabulation) of ballots to determine whether the initial tabulation was accurate.  Most notably, recounts are done by hand, not computerized tabulation. The most recent recount in Ingham County was the 2016 presidential recount, which was conducted with 30 teams of two recount workers each, over three days. While state law does not compel clerks to provide teams constructed of one Democrat and one Republican, recount teams were kept as balanced as possible in Ingham County.

Regardless of whether there is a recount or not, random audits are conducted by County Clerks. The Michigan Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections selects the precincts that are audited after nearly every election.  Currently, there are two types of audits performed in Michigan: Regular hand counts of select races and verification that specific election procedures were carried out and Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs), which use statistical methods in lieu of a full hand count to determine within a degree of accuracy. RLAs are being piloted in the state and have not yet been widely adopted.  Regardless the type of audit, we must continue auditing our election results.  

With the passage of Proposal 3 last November, Michigan now allows individuals the right to vote by absentee ballot without reason. In other states, this is known as “voting by mail.”  This will likely present new opportunities for additional security procedures or, at a minimum, a higher awareness of the procedures. Also, with the passage of Proposal 3, same-day voter registration is a Michigander’s Constitutional right.  So voters may register to vote on Election Day.

There have been many allegations that our elections “have been hacked.”  This is a perception that has spread like a cancer through social media and the proliferation of inaccurate stories, and filters segregate stories to ensure individuals only receive information they agree with.  Elections are not being hacked, but our minds might be.  

How can we unhack the perception that our elections are not safe and secure? Invest in cybersecurity and ensure that county and local clerks have the resources we need to secure our elections.

Also, consider getting involved in Michigan elections.  We need good people to help us run our elections and the more people that are watching and participating, the more secure our elections will be.  Serving as a precinct worker on Election Day is a paid position and your local clerk would welcome your participation. Most importantly, make your voice heard and vote.


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Agnosicrat 2.0
Mon, 10/07/2019 - 1:48pm

Thank you for the information...
Cue the unreasonable conspiracy theorists!

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 9:05am

I appreciate our county clerks’ work. What I still do not understand is why and how the republicans stopped the 2016 recount. I was an observer in Oakland and Genesee counties. The recount was going really quickly, it was efficient and it discovered LOTS of issues. Trump only “won” Michigan by a hair, I still doubt it was real. Why bother with a paper ballot when republicans can just stop a legal recount?

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 10:40am

An election is only “hacked” if what we voted for gets altered and the final count does not match the votes cast. It is not hacking if I put something on social media that is detrimental to a candidate, even if that something is not true. If you rely solely on social or mainstream media to determine who to vote for, than maybe you should consider whether or not you should vote. Debates and the position papers of candidates give us a wealth of information to determine who gets our votes. It is our job as voters to become educated.

Michigan is well protected by its use of of paper ballots.

middle of the mit
Wed, 10/09/2019 - 2:20am

What was it that you were complaining about to the other poster? Oh yeah! Vote totals not matching ballots cast, right? Thank Matt for the wall of text! The real question is; will you read it?


[[Detailed reports from the office of Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett show optical scanners at 248 of the city’s 662 precincts, or 37 percent, tabulated more ballots than the number of voters tallied by workers in the poll books. Voting irregularities in Detroit have spurred plans for an audit by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office, Elections Director Chris Thomas said Monday.

Overall, state records show 10.6 percent of the precincts in the 22 counties that began the retabulation process couldn’t be recounted because of state law that bars recounts for unbalanced precincts or ones with broken seals.

The Detroit News last week was first to report that more than half of Detroit would be ineligible for the recount because of the irregularities. The results were based on county reports obtained by The News.

Haroutunian said she didn’t know what to make of the trend toward over-counting because there was no explanation from Detroit poll workers. The city had another 34 precincts that were out of balance, but they included explanations for the discrepancies.

Under state law, those precincts could be recounted because there were explanations. The law states that original results stand in precincts that can’t be recounted.

Washtenaw County Elections Director Ed Golembiewski said discrepancies tend to “even themselves out” — there are usually about as many precincts whose machines report more votes than fewer votes. But he said the large number of precincts with over-votes in Detroit isn’t necessarily significant.]]

Here is the problem with that, how do you reconcile the number of voters with the number of ballots when they don't match? That is probably why the law goes with the total votes cast. Otherwise what do you do? Cut ballots to the number of voters registered? How do you do that? Take evenly from each party? Take at random? Take from the party that is over rep-resented? Take from the party that is under-represented?

Also, there is this guy.


[[WASHINGTON — As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.]]

And that is one of the charges he is sitting in jail for right now and when you read this and for a while after.


[[For three years, Manafort was the media’s top culprit for election collusion. He turned out to be much less — a Republican political operative who networked with some unsavory Russia-connected people to attain riches. He wanted to cash in on his four-month stint as Trump campaign chairman to restart a lucrative business arrangement in Ukraine, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Manafort is no innocent, but neither is he a Russian plotter. His central crime: The Russia-friendly Party of Regions in Ukraine paid him millions of dollars that he failed to report on federal income tax returns.]]

NOT a Russian plotter? Nooo! He was just getting money from a PRO RUSSIAN Ukrainian that he failed to report on his taxes! I wonder why?


Why Did Manafort Share Trump Polling? Mueller Leaves Clues

Around the time in 2016 when Paul Manafort began sharing the Trump campaign’s internal polling data with an associate linked to Russian intelligence, each man was trying to advance an agenda.

Manafort was seeking to end a long-running business dispute with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. The associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, was peddling ]]


The Department of Homeland Security has finally agreed to conduct a thorough inspection of election equipment used in North Carolina that was supplied by a vendor whose system was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.


[[Tens of thousands of voting machines in the United States are vulnerable to hacking.

They have been successfully dismantled and attacked by security researchers for years to demonstrate their flaws. In 2017, at the annual Defcon hackers conference, one tech professor from the University of Copenhagen was able to penetrate an Advanced Voting Solutions machine in about 90 minutes. The attackers were able to access the administrator mode, allowing them to potentially alter voting data.]]

I know, liberal mainstream trash. What good does providing proof do if you can just dismiss everything? Or, everyone can come to different interpretations of what they "see"? Kelly Ann and her "alternative facts". Rudy and " Truth, who knows what truth is".

How would it work if I just started interpreting language difservt thm v%

It's why conservatives don't comment about it when there is a story on this site about impoverished farmers.

Or when I tell the local rural farmers what Sonny Purdue told them, when they complained they were going bankrupt.


[[Ag secretary: No guarantee small dairy farms will survive

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it's getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds.

"In America, the big get bigger and the small go out," Perdue said. "I don't think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability."]]

Ewe R jvst tvrptij realti n divirint wu.

Paper ballots are a MUST. Recounts should be hand counted in batches of 10 and checked to see if they match the machine. I don't know the answer for what to do about hacking. It has happened. And up until a few months ago, we didn't get any help from the Feds thank to Mitch. Then he caved. And gave each State $5 million. Well, he gave $250 million.

Then again, I got that from the "liberal press"

Hey! Why didn't FOX News move from the liberal taxhole of Manhattan to the greener tax friendly pastures of rural Kansas?

Do I need to provide proof that they didn't?

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 12:08pm

California increased there TAXES to THE RICH and is number 6 in the world of commerce,
Kansas cut TAXES to THE RICH and is now in bankruptcy....................
and a wallstreet is in the RED "REPO" money coming from the FEDS?????

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 12:09pm

Lets see Wayne County VOTES<

Vince Caruso
Fri, 10/11/2019 - 9:52pm

Thanks for all your good work on voting.
I do think all the 75,000 or so votes not counted in Detroit and Flint according to poll observers, as written in Rolling Stone and Democracy Now, in the 2016 for president were a major failure of our political system to not stop the 'suppress the vote' in minority districts to bias the voting results. This helped Trump 'win' Michigan with less than 11,000 votes.
We need to pressure our new SOS Joslen Benson to make sure this doesn't happen again. I think she and others in a position like yours can make a great stride in making our votes matter and be counted.
All hands on deck for the 2020 election to make it a fair election, or we may keep going down the undemocratic rat hole and may never return.
Please contact your local officials and SOS Joslen Benson to get to work on the 2020 election process.