State Temporarily Prohibits Genoa Clerk From Administering Elections
April 23, 2021
By Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
Genoa Township’s longtime clerk, who is facing arraignment next month on an election violation charge, has been ordered by state officials to refrain from conducting any business related to elections, including processing ballots and voter registration.
The prohibitions came in a letter dated March 29th from Jonathan Brater, the Director of Elections for the Michigan Department of State, to Genoa Township Clerk Polly Skolarus. She was charged in March with a single, misdemeanor charge of Election Law - Failure to Perform Duty after a Michigan State Police investigation determined that she had used unapproved canvas bags to store excess absentee ballots used in the November 2020 election.
The letter was provided to WHMI by Meghan Reckling, Chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request last Friday to the township requesting all written communications between Skolarus and her staff and the Michigan Bureau of Elections between November 3, 2020, and April 16, 2021. When asked why she released the document, Reckling told WHMI; "The main responsibility of our township clerks is to administer our elections, a duty that Mrs. Skolarus can longer legally participate in indefinitely. The residents of Genoa Township deserve to have their tax dollars that pay Mrs. Skolarus' salary respected, and I again I call on Polly Skolarus to do the right things and resign her position as Clerk of Genoa Township."
In the letter, which is attached below, Brater said that while the criminal charges against her could be resolved in her favor, he was instructing her to refrain from administering any elections in Genoa Township until the matter was resolved. Those duties were turned over to the township’s Deputy Clerk Mary Krencicki, who said she was “happy and willing to help in any way until my clerk, Polly Skolarus, is exonerated.”
Among the duties Skolarus cannot take part in include Performing Voter Registration and Routing List Maintenance; Ordering Election Supplies and Ballots; Processing Absent Voter Ballot Applications and Issuing Absent Voter Ballots; Preparing Polling Locations; Recruiting, Assigning and Training Election Inspectors; Membership on the Election Commission; Role in Logic and Accuracy Testing; Addressing Election Day Issues; and Compiling Unofficial Results/Post-Election Canvass.
Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State, said the prohibitions are standard practice when an election official faces an election-related crime.
Brater then says Skolarus or her counsel are required to keep him apprised of the status of this case and promptly report any changes. He added that the directive remains in effect until she is acquitted or the charges against her are dismissed, “or you are otherwise notified in writing that this directive has been modified or terminated.”
According to the MSP report, the investigation against Skolrus began after the Livingston County Board of Canvassers met on November 9th to canvass the election a week before. Skolarus had been asked to appear so that ballots from the absentee ballot counting boards (AVCB 1 & 2) could be retabulated based on a discrepancy between the ballots cast in the poll book versus the number of ballots counted by the tabulator. In and of itself, that is not an unheard-of occurrence and is usually rectified during the canvass of the election afterward.
According to the statements, as soon as Skolarus brought out the canvas bags, it was determined they were not approved to store ballots prior to final certification, as required by law. The report included statements that Skolarus had used the illegal containers when they ran out of room to store ballots in the approved receptacles. The November election had a record number of absentee ballots due to the pandemic and following passage of a state constitutional amendment in 2018 expanding absentee voting across the state.
Skolarus is set to be arraigned May 7th on the charge, which carries a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.