Process of canvassing votes expected to take 2 weeks in Kent County

Posted at 4:18 PM, Nov 06, 2020

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The process of canvassing all votes cast across the county has begun and is expected to take a full 2 weeks to complete.

Kent County started canvassing their ballots in the board room typically used for County Commissioners meetings at the county building downtown on Thursday morning. Once the process is complete, those votes become certified.

“This is what I think truly is one of the most under-appreciated, but valuable checks and balances... it’s the final check and balance to our entire elections process,” Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons told FOX 17 Friday morning.

In one corner of the room sit a row of large plastic tubs filled with manila envelopes.

"These are the envelopes that come from each precinct when when the results are reported and transmitted,” Lyons said.

A Republican and Democrat from each precinct bring the folders to what's called a Receiving Board, which is also made up of representatives from each side of the aisle.

“And they bring the poll books, they bring the results tapes from each of the tabulators, and they'll put them in these envelopes.”

From there, one envelope is given to the Chief Probate Judge, one is given to the County Clerk, and another stays with the local clerk. This way the same information is held by 3 different parties until the canvassing process begins.

"And that way we know they haven't been tampered with in transition from the receiving board to my office and to the chief judge," Lyons said.

“It's really important that that this process is transparent, it's unbiased, it's nonpartisan.”

But what does the actual process of canvassing votes look like?

In Kent County, there are just 2 tables with 3 to 4 people sitting at each. There is a Republican and a Democrat representative present at each table.

“They verify and they check that to make sure all the numbers balance, they'll take the poll book, and they'll make sure that the number of ballots issued matches the number of ballots that were recorded as being issued," Lyons said.

“They'll take the tapes on each of our tabulators and the precincts that shows the result for each contest. And they'll take those results and match it to the results reports that we have provided.”

The canvassing of votes is always open to the public. On Friday there were 2 members of the public sitting in on the Kent County canvassing.

What happens if a discrepancy is found?

"We'll find a precinct that has numbers that don't balance with each other, and so it's the canvasser's job to try and figure out why there's an imbalance. And generally speaking, it's easy to determine many times," Lyons said.

“In the occurrence that we just can't determine where the imbalance occurred from, then, we will bring in that jurisdiction and the ballots for that precinct, and they'll re-tabulate them.”

But Lyons says we shouldn't expect to see drastically different numbers come out of this process, compared to our initial tabulating of votes.

“This is my 13th election since I took office, and we've never had an outcome of an election change as a result of our canvas,” she said Friday.

As she explains, it is just another step in the tried and true process to verify votes are being counted as they were intended to be.

“It really will show the public that Kent County elections are safe, they're secure, they're transparent, and they're fair.”