BELLAIRE — Antrim County Commissioners voted unanimously to keep Dominion voting machines “on ice” and hand count all ballots cast in the upcoming May 4 primary, which some officials acknowledged may defy state law.
Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy had requested $5,080 to hire consultants to prepare the Dominion machines for the primary election, stating a Dec. 6 forensic examination had rendered them unfit for use.
“We are left with equipment not ‘certified for use’ as required by the Secretary of State,” Guy said in an action request to the commission on Thursday, referring to an examination of the equipment by a team working on behalf of a Central Lake Township man suing the county in an election-related lawsuit.
Members of the examination team, ASOG of Dallas, visited Antrim County Nov. 27 and Dec. 6, on behalf of a Central Lake Township man who filed an election related lawsuit against the county.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State declined comment Friday on the legality of a paper ballot hand count, citing the potential for future legal proceedings.
A spokesperson for Dominion Voting Systems also declined comment Friday.
But Guy said while the county already uses paper ballots — their Dominion machines are used to count ballots — the state outlawed the kind of precinct paper ballot hand counts the commission approved.
“The state said we can’t, but let them come tell us that we can’t, given our circumstance,” said Commissioner Ed Boettcher, of the commission’s decision to hold a hand ballot count in the May primary.
The motion passed Thursday directs attorney Haider Kazim to send a letter to the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections stating Antrim County would hand count ballots in May, due to the ongoing lawsuit. on.
Antrim County has made national headlines, and captured the attention of former President Donald Trump, attorney Rudy Giuliani and others who worked on the former president’s election-challenging legal team, after Bill Bailey accused the county of voter fraud and filed suit Nov. 23.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in December filed a motion in 13th Circuit Court to intervene in the case, and was added as a named defendant.
The commission was under a time constraint Thursday to take some action — if the existing voting equipment was to be used in the primary, it first had to be accuracy tested by April 29, Guy said.
Data still on the machines could be evidence in the ongoing lawsuit, Guy said, and the required accuracy test could not be conducted until the hard drives were removed and preserved.
Her plan to hire Alabama-based consulting firm Pro V & V to remove and secure the hard drives, replace them with new hard drives, and share contractual information with 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer, who is presiding over the case, was met with skepticism and open hostility by some officials and many residents.
“If humans want to create a bias and favor certain candidates, they certainly have that ability with any of these machines,” Dale Eschenburg of Alden said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Dominion has no credibility in my view. Did you direct your staff to delete those images, or where you asked to do so by Dominion or our executive branch? At the end of the day we had integrity in our election, but it was after four tries to get the numbers right.”
Claims of election fraud in Antrim County have been repeatedly debunked by Dominion CEO John Poulos, and by national, state and county election officials and experts.
“The hand tally of all ballots cast for president in Antrim County confirmed the vote tabulation machines there were extremely accurate,” said Tracy Wimmer, Secretary of State director of media relations.
“And the recent completion of hundreds of additional audits across the state affirmed what we knew in November: that Michigan had a safe, secure and accurate election and the results—including those tabulated by Dominion machines across the state—reflect the will of the voters,” Wimmer said Friday.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released their assessment on threats to the 2020 election, and stated the office was aware of multiple public claims that the election was manipulated by foreign actors or others, but the claims were not credible.
Eschenburg served as a volunteer poll auditor Dec. 17 during a hand recount of the county’s presidential election held Dec. 17 by the state’s Bureau of Elections and publicly livestreamed.
Eschenburg acknowledged Guy had met with him several times and had answered his questions about the 2020 election results, but echoed more than a dozen other commenters when he stated he did not trust the election equipment.
In November, Guy acknowledged her office — not Dominion — was responsible for an incomplete software update that mistakenly assigned about 2,000 votes cast for then-President Donald Trump, to then-Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden.
Other state officials agreed.
In December the state’s Republican-lead Senate oversight committee held hearings on the issue and took testimony from witnesses, including Giuliani, and found the mistake in the vote tally was due to “human error,” not fraud.
“The simple answer given by the clerk of Antrim County still stands,” said Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, chair of the committee, in a Dec. 22 statement.
“These errors were quickly discovered and rectified by the protective systems our state has built in to verify and protect election integrity and were further verified when a hand count was completed,” McBroom said.
Several commenters at the commission meeting Thursday called for the resignations of county staff and an investigation by law enforcement, while clerks of four townships — Banks, Custer, Elk Rapids and Torch Lake — sent emails expressing support both for County Clerk Sheryl Guy and Dominion voting equipment.
“Please don’t give in to conspiracy theories,” Torch Lake Township Clerk Kathy Windiate wrote in an email to commissioners, which County Administrator Pete Garwood read into the record.
Windiate referenced the hand recount of ballots cast in the county’s presidential election conducted in December by the Bureau of Elections, which found 12 errors in the more than 15,000 ballots cast.
Of Antrim County’s 15 precincts, nine are holding a primary election in May, Guy said. Purchasing nine new precinct voting tabulators at $6,200 each or about $55,000 for nine was discussed, and ultimately decided against in favor of a hand ballot count.
“If we do a one-time count of the May election, yeah it’s a pain in the ass, its going to cost us money — its going to cost us less than $55,000 certainly — and the lawsuit will hopefully have played out by then,” Boettcher said.
Pro V & V is a voting machine testing and evaluation company, approved by U.S. Election Assistance Commission to test voting systems to federal election standards, information on their website shows.
The decision to not approve hiring the company came in the midst of a five hour commission meeting, which included a lengthy closed session with the county’s attorney, Haider Kazim, and more than an hour of heated public comment.
Commissioners also unanimously approved a budget amendment to re-assign $53,000 from the general fund to pay for ongoing legal services.
The county has already paid Kazim about $35,000 for legal work on the case, records show.
Discovery is underway and a remote hearing is scheduled for March 22 at 11:30 a.m., court records show.