tagged w/ voting irregularities
Marquette, Michigan - In the marble halls of one of Michigan's most famous courthouses, an Independent candidate for Marquette County prosecutor filed a recount petition in her race against a longtime democratic incumbent.
Former assistant prosecutor Cathy Church cited uncounted absentee ballots and suspected problems with Diebold optical scanners used to tabulate ballots as the reason for the recount. She lost to the incumbent by 1,784 votes or about six percent.
"We decided there were some anomalies we wanted to look at," Church said. ""You took your ballot and put it into a machine that may or may not have sucked your ballot in on the first attempt."
Church served for 14 years as an assistant prosecutor of domestic violence cases.
She said the $400 filing fee was worth "the peace of mind."
The Nov. 12, 2008 press conference scheduled for the front steps of the historic courthouse was moved inside the main doors due to a cold rain.
The Marquette County Courthouse was the site of the director Otto Preminger's famous 1959 movie trial "Anatomy of a Murder" based on a book penned by prosecuter and future Michigan Supreme Court Judge John D. Voelker, under the name "Robert Traver," and starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and a score by Duke Ellington.
At the same courthouse in 1913, former President Theodore Roosevelt was awarded six cents after winning a libel suit against a local newspaper publisher who wrote that Roosevelt was addicted to alcohol.
Church said the optical scanners used to tabulate the vote are sometimes being unreliable.
Diebold optical scanning machines “don't always read people's marks on the ballots correctly," she said.
"The scanning machines (in Marquette County) have had problems around the county," Church said. "Any mark within the circle counts as a valid vote in Michigan."
"However, the scanners are like anything, what they are doing is they are sending out some type of reading device and unless - and I think - if it's a check mark or an X it has a 15 percent chance of reading it."
"The scanner would not have picked it up but a hand recount will," she said.
At different precincts, voters were asked to mark their ballots different writing utensils including pencils and blue and black ink pens, and absentee ballots were filled out with black felt tip pens, said Professor Ruth Watry, NMU political science professor.
"I was going to take a pen out of my purse and she (the clerk) gave me a felt black tipped marker and said ‘this doesn't always read the pen well why don you use this' and some other people who had absentee ballots mailed to them from the city of Marquette has these markers mailed with the absentee ballot," Professor Watry said.
"I did a lot of research on this and according to the manufacturers, if the scanners have an infra-red reader on them there are only four types of marking instruments you are supposed to use" including a number two pencil and a Sharpie, Church said.
"It can be highly selective," she said.
Many voters voted straight party tickets but could check her name as an independent candidate for prosecutor.
"That's known as a split ticket" and if the scanner correctly reads the ballot "it should override the straight party ticket for that particular race," Church said.
"My race is pretty unique. I am not affiliated with any party" and there "was no republican candidate," she said.
"Poll workers work very hard in kind of a thankless job. I want to stress to you that I think those people do a stellar job."
"Michigan bought all these optical scanners for their precincts it was about a $32 million dollar contract," she said.
Berry County, Michigan had never had a problem with voting until using the optical scanners in 2006, she said.
"When Barry County transmitted the data 15 out of the 16 malfunctioned and they dropped 1,500 votes. Ohio just had a problem with the 11 out of 40 counties."
The recount date has not been set.Marquette, Michigan - In the marble halls of one of Michigan's most famous... more
Video of WKQS Radio exclusive interview with Independent candidate Cathy Church who filed a petition for a recount due to uncounted ballots and possible failures of the Diebold optical scanner voting system
(Marquette, MI) - Cathy Church, Independent Candidate for Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney, filed a Petition on Wednesday November 12, 2008 for a Full Recount of the ballots cast in the General Election on November 4, 2008 and posted a $400.00 deposit with the Marquette County Clerk.
The decision to petition for a recount was made after reviewing the total vote counts for Marquette County precincts, learning about voting irregularities within Marquette County during the general election and investigating the performance history of similar optical scanners used by various jurisdictions during recent elections.
Some of the information considered in reaching this decision included, but was not limited to:
Two absentee voters’ selections for a write-in candidate were not posted in the precinct’s final tally. (The write in candidate received 0 votes despite two voters casting their vote for the candidate.) Many voters had difficulty getting the optical scanners to accept their ballots and had to load and reload the ballots more than once before the scanner accepted them.
Different Marquette County precincts provided different marking instruments for the ballots ranging from pencils, ink pens and felt tip pens. When one voter attempted to mark his/her absentee ballot with an ink pen at one precinct, he/she was told to use a felt tip pen because the optical scanner in use might not read ink from a regular pen.
If a voter checked their ballot with a check mark or X, the optical scanner might not register these legitimate votes because of limitations on the scanners reading abilities.
In Ohio’s primary election this spring, the same scanners as used in Marquette County, malfunctioned in 11 out of the 40 Ohio Counties where they were in service, resulting in dropped votes. This situation prompted the scanner manufacturer to issue a nationwide customer alert in August 2008. Approximately 1,750 jurisdictions used the flawed system.
In Barry County, Michigan, a glitch in a computer program was believed to be the cause of a problem with the voting machines the first time they were used in 2006. All of the ballots had to be counted by hand after county officials noticed the optical scan machines scrambled the results. This glitch affected 15 of the 16 Barry County townships, including the city of Hastings and resulted in 1500 dropped votes.
Cathy Church stressed she has the utmost confidence in all the precincts, election officials and poll workers who performed their duties diligently and conscientiously during the election.
This recount request is based on the limitations of the technology of the optical scanners, NOT the election officials or poll workers’ work product or ethic.
The recount is also requested because to Cathy’s knowledge, a county-wide recount has not been done since these scanners came into service in every precinct in the county.
Cathy believes that the only way to measure the performance of the optical scanners is by a hand count of the ballots. As a candidate in the last election, Cathy is one of the few people permitted by law to petition for a recount.
Given all of this information, Cathy felt it prudent to petition for a recount to assure that all individuals who voted in the past election, and those who will vote in future elections in Marquette County, had and will have their votes accurately counted. A recount is the only method available to Cathy that will check the accuracy of the scanners and their technology.Video of WKQS Radio exclusive interview with Independent candidate Cathy Church who... more