Flint, MI—After learning that a “false name” was added to a voter list in Flint’s Precinct 55, the Genesee County Board of Canvassers will submit a summary of its understanding to the county prosecutor’s office for further review and a potential investigation by local authorities.
During a Nov. 17, 2022 meeting, chairperson of the Genesee County Board of Canvassers Norma Eskew clarified a lingering concern from the prior day’s canvass:
“No ballots have been added into that container,” Eskew explained of Precinct 55’s results. “The question was concerning the full book—the list of actual voters from that night. I had a partial list, and I requested the complete list. The complete list was adjusted.”
The bipartisan board, tasked with reviewing unofficial election results and ensuring the number of voters match the number of ballots cast, learned on Nov. 16 that someone had written in a name on Precinct 55’s voter list despite that name not being on an associated ballot in the precinct’s ballot box.
Early questions after Flint resident Arthur Woodson live streamed the Nov. 16 canvass seemed to be concerned with the possibility of ballot stuffing, or more ballots being cast than had been legitimately voted. Eskew stressed that that was not the case nor concern for the board.
“The count in the ballot box that was re-sealed [after the canvass]—no added ballots—was 321,” she said. “This is what was reported on election night.”
Eskew and other board members said they had no comment for the press at the top of their public meeting. However, they called Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton on speakerphone for advice on how to handle the name not matching.
Leyton asked for clarification regarding the issue.
“They had found a ballot that was not used that needed to be listed—that they thought needed to be listed,” Eskew told Leyton. “And they, from what I understood—what I was told—they felt the only way to list it was to give it a name and put it on the list of voters. There was not anything added to the actual ballots in the container.”
Leyton then asked, “Is the Board of Canvassers wondering, or of the belief, that there was some kind of crime that was committed?”
“In putting down a false name on that list of voters, we don’t know,” Eskew said.
Though Eskew wasn’t certain, Vern Miller, another of the four county canvassers, seemed more sure.
“Well, they falsified a government document,” he said. “That’s a crime.”
Leyton then asked if Miller could point him to the statute he believed was in question. Miller said he wasn’t sure which statute but repeated that he felt it was a crime for a government official to go “behind closed doors and change government documentation.”
Leyton ultimately suggested the canvassers submit a summary of what they believed occurred, to the best of their knowledge, to his office for review. He said if he believed a potential crime occured then he will refer it to an outside investigative agency–as his office is “not an investigatory office.”
“The short answer to your question, Madam Chair, is this,” Leyton said. “If the Board of Canvassers believes that a crime may have occurred, there has to be an investigation by the law enforcement authorities.”
Eskew said she would handle writing up and sending the board’s summary to the prosecutor. Leyton also said the board members could send separate accounts if they preferred.
Leslie Raleigh, the Genesee County Chief Deputy Clerk, then asked Leyton for clarification on what a potential investigation means for the rest of the Board of Canvassers work.
“I just want to make sure how this is going to affect the outcome or the certification of the election, if there is an investigation ongoing,” she inquired.
Leyton confirmed the board was able to proceed with the canvass, as an investigation would not affect standing procedure.
“Well, obviously if one of the candidates believes that there was some kind of impropriety, the law allows for petitioning for a recount of as many precincts as that candidate wants. So, that procedure is unaffected by any investigation on the criminal side,” Leyton said.
By law, the Genesee County Board of Canvassers has 14 days, or until Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to complete its canvass of the county’s Nov. 8 election results. If they cannot certify results in time they must turn them over to the Board of State Canvassers, which will then have to finish reviewing and certifying the results within 10 days of receiving them.