Flint, MI—Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton has recommended “additional training” in response to the county’s Board of Canvassers concern over a false name listed in a Nov. 8 election record provided by the City of Flint Clerk’s Office.

The false name came to the board’s attention during its canvass in mid-November, according to a summary provided by the board to Leyton’s office. The board had provided the summary to Leyton over concern that the false name may be in violation of Michigan Election Law.

After a “review of City of Flint Precinct #55 found several problems with the precinct book,” the summary reads, Board Chair Norma Eskew “requested all documents and the ballot container box” from the City of Flint Clerk’s Office, including the complete “List of Voters,” in order to understand the problems.

“The original list submitted to the Board of Canvassers was incomplete and so noted in the precinct book,” the board’s summary continues. “The issue at hand is the List of Voters. An amended version was delivered to the Board of Canvassers on 11/16/22 that showed page 1, voter #8, Isis Brown added to the list and was known by the Clerk’s office to be not an actual voter.”

The summary states that name was added to the voter list to account for a ballot “which was not voted or spoiled but was located in the spoiled envelope,” adding that the “Clerk’s office stated that they believed this to be the only way they could spoil the ballot in the computer.”

The summary concludes the board was therefore concerned that adding the name may constitute a violation of Michigan Election Law MCL 168.932(c), which reads:

An inspector of election, clerk, or other officer or person having custody of any record, election list of voters, affidavit, return, statement of votes, certificates, poll book, or of any paper, document, or vote of any description, which pursuant to this act is directed to be made, filed, or preserved, shall not willfully destroy, mutilate, deface, falsify, or fraudulently remove or secrete any or all of those items, in whole or in part, or fraudulently make any entry, erasure, or alteration on any or all of those items, or permit any other person to do so.  

Michigan Election Law, MCL 168.932(c)

In his Dec. 12, 2022 response, which Flint Beat acquired through a public records request, Leyton acknowledged the basis of the board’s concern.

He said his understanding was “that the election worker had an unaccounted-for ballot; in other words, she couldn’t match the ballot to a name on the list of voters,” and “in order to balance ballots and voters, she added the name of someone she knew was not an actual voter.”

Leyton said falsifying election records in violation of the cited election law required proof beyond a reasonable doubt of three things: that the election worker was a clerk, “had custody of a record, election list of voters… poll book…,” and willfully falsified or fraudulently made any entry.

“It’s clear that the first two elements are met here,” Leyton noted. “The only question is whether the third element is satisfied.”

Leyton then cited a former Michigan case, People v. Hawkins, in which the Court of Appeals stated: “The intent to defraud is the specific intent to cheat or deceive.” 

From this, Leyton wrote, it seems that proving the violation would require proving the intent to deceive the Board of Canvassers. (Italics are Leyton’s own.)

“If, as it seems here, the change was made as an ill-conceived attempt to balance the ballots and voter list, the intent to defraud, deceive or cheat is missing,” Leyton’s response concluded. “I do not believe a criminal charge is the appropriate action here. Additional training for election workers may be in order.”

Genesee County’s Nov. 8 General Election results were certified on Nov. 22, 2022.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....