Following an audit report asserting that some clerks did not have proper accreditation, Livingston County Clerk Betsy Hundley assures the community that all local clerks are accredited and trained heading into the 2020 election cycle.
The Michigan Auditor General conducted an audit of the Bureau of Elections at the Michigan Secretary of State and released a report that included maps showing 32 counties, 83 cities and 426 townships lack fully accredited election officials. The map was based on historic clerk participation in initial accreditation through May 3, 2019 and continuing education for the 2016/2017. The maps have generated some controversy as it listed some clerks as not having up to date accreditation, when they actually did. The Office of Auditor General has since clarified that the map was meant to be a snapshot in time and the 2018/2019 training cycle was in process during the audit period; therefore the map does not reflect the 2018/2019 training and whether current clerks are fully accredited. The Office noted the underlying goal was to increase communication and improve the process for improved accreditation rates to ensure clerks are fully trained and up to date. Law requires initial accreditation and then continuing training, although the Bureau doesn’t have authority to enforce that.
Clerk Betsy Hundley tells WHMI that local clerks, their deputies and those at the county level have all met the accreditation requirements and have worked exceptionally hard to learn the legal changes and ramifications brought by the 2018 passage of Proposal 3. Hundley noted local clerks have all educated themselves on that process, know both the laws and changes and are prepared. Hundley also reinforced that local city and township clerks have a great understanding of new election equipment and fully know how to use it going into 2020. With all of the changes clerks are facing when it comes to administering elections, Hundley believes there could be some turnover or retirements in township clerk offices because of the large number of changes with election administration – adding it’s hard to stay current and takes a lot of effort. She added they always need election inspectors and would love to have the public sign up, be trained and work on Election Day – noting training is provided and the positions are paid. Hundley added that they also hold monthly local clerk meetings in Livingston County and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has attended two of their meetings. Hundley says Benson acknowledged that Livingston County has well-educated, very knowledgeable clerks administering elections and does not face some of the problems other areas do with a lack of educated election officials.
Hundley stressed she has never have been notified at the county level that any clerks or deputies have lacked accreditation – adding this is the first audit of its kind that she has seen a report for. Brighton City Clerk Tara Brown was among those listed in the audit report as not being fully accredited but it has been certified by the Bureau of Elections that she is fully accredited. Hundley said she found it disappointing that the audit information was released without explaining a little more that it was a snapshot in time – saying she has huge respect for Brown, who she says does an outstanding job administering elections in the City of Brighton. She says Brown is also in the process of receiving the highest election official accreditation, along with Livingston County Elections Coordinator/ Deputy Clerk Joe Bridgman. Hundley added what’s further disappointing is the impact the audit information might have on clerks who are doing an outstanding job and do have the required accreditation. She noted Brown is an appointed clerk but there are others who are elected and information such as this in an election year could be harmful and they could end up spending a lot of time explaining that they are accredited and have been.
Hundley says as election administrators, they are constantly fighting a barrage of misinformation, most especially from social media. She says if voters have questions, they should contact their clerk and not rely on information they’re hearing from other sources. The current status of a clerk can be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Elections. The link to the audit report is provided. (JM)