By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

The election process and maintaining integrity and accuracy were the focus of a virtual town hall event hosted by a local lawmaker Wednesday night.

More than 40 participants attended the event hosted by Republican State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township. She was joined at the town hall by fellow Republicans Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville, who is term-limited, and Matt Hall of Marshall, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, which issued a subpoena on November 7th to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office for documents related to the November 3rd election.

A variety of topics were covered including the election process, equipment, post-election audits and records. Questions and comments were centered on regaining voter trust and "restoring election integrity." It was stated this was the first General Election following passage of Proposal 3, in which the pre-processing of ballots on Election Day was also permitted due to the pandemic and record high number of absentee ballots that were cast.

Bollin, who spent 16 years working as a local clerk before being elected, addressed different issues at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit during the event. Votes from Detroit were tallied at the TCF Center, which was at capacity with poll challengers. Republican counters said they were being kept out and alleged fraud during absentee ballot counting but no evidence was found. Protestors gathered outside and pounded on the doors and windows shouting “Stop the count”. Bollin was at the Center the day before Election Day and said this was the first election that permitted pre-processing of ballots, which was a new law intended to assist clerks with handling the number of increased ballots because of Proposal 3 and the pandemic. The law was only passed for this election and Bollin said she wanted to see how it worked, if it might be something they might want in the future, and what could be possibly improved. Bollin said she saw some things that may have not been performed as expected but they’re things that can be built on to move forward.

Bollin said she’s also heard concerns from constituents about the process at the TCF Center, including windows being covered up. However, she notes it’s a requirement that the workers on Absentee Counting boards be sequestered and cordoned off so that people can’t see those ballots.

Bollin commented there are checks and balances that require a Republican and a Democrat to be working in each precinct and challengers are allowed. She said only one challenger is allowed from each party in a counting board. Bollin said there was some confusion about there being more of one party and while she wasn’t there during the day, it would not be unusual to just allow one of each. She noted workers were further dealing with a pandemic, trying to respect laws that allow accountability while managing work and following protocols for PPE.

Issues with multiple voter applications being sent to a single address ahead of the General Election were also discussed and it was stated that old voter lists were used, which Bollin called alarming. She said the Secretary of State is working with local clerks to update voter rolls.

Recent issues with the Wayne County Board of Canvassers came up, where the board on Tuesday initially deadlocked 2-2 on party lines but later voted to certify the results in favor of Joe Biden. Bollin said she didn’t know exactly what the driving factor was behind the decisions made that evening, but stated it is not completely out of the norm to certify an election when some precincts are out of balance - noting it has happened before in precincts in Livingston County. Bollin commented there was a lot in this election that shined a light on election law, as well as the need to utilize poll books, which she said tell the story of an election. She said the books need to be used to explain where discrepancies might be or if a machine gets jammed. Bollin noted there are a lot of times where there are rational explanations that satisfy why something may have been out of balance.

In a related note, the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers who reversed course Tuesday and voted to certify the results of the presidential election, now say they want to take back their votes. The Washington Post is reporting that in affidavits signed on Wednesday evening, Monica Palmer, the board’s chairwoman and William Hartmann, the other Republican on the board, allege that they were improperly pressured into certifying the election and accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to audit votes in Detroit. Palmer and Hartmann say they believed they had a firm commitment to an audit. But Palmer says in her affidavit that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, later said she didn’t view their resolution asking for an audit as binding. Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and the board’s vice chairman, told The Post that it’s too late for the pair to reverse course, as the certified results have already been sent to the secretary of state in accordance with state rules.

Bollin stated her greatest takeaway from observing elections on the other side was a greater awareness of things she may have done as a clerk that were maybe a matter of best practice she took for granted and thinks many clerks do – adding they’re not necessarily in statutes but rather best practices or in a manual. Bollin said she’ll be putting forth a lot of effort come January to look at what things should be put into statutes, not just as a best practice.