Variety of problems caused delay in reporting Ionia and Montcalm election results

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:21 am on Thursday, November 08, 2012

Jaimy Knowlton of Belding, front, fills out her general election ballot at the Belrockton Museum in Belding on Tuesday evening as several other Belding residents fill the voting booths casting their votes. — Daily News/Cory Smith

More than 60 percent of registered voters in Ionia and Montcalm counties exercised their right to vote Tuesday.

Ionia County had 62 percent voter turnout, while Montcalm County had more than 61 percent voter turnout (down just a few percentage points from the 2008 presidential election).

Precinct 2 of Lyons Township held the Ionia County record this year with more than 74 percent voter participation, while Precinct 1 of Eureka Township had the highest amount of voters in Montcalm County with almost 73 percent.

According to Montcalm County Clerk Kristen Millard, several precincts experienced ballot jam issues, which caused counts to be off when polls closed. Those precincts had to retabulate ballots after polls closed so the list of voters matched the number of ballots that were tabulated. The retabulation caused those precincts to report results to the county later than normal. Douglass Township was the final precinct to report numbers to the county, meaning a countywide vote tally wasn’t available online until around 2 a.m.

Another problem involved the more than 6,100 absentee ballots that were turned in throughout Montcalm County, which is higher than normal, according to Millard.

“Some precincts were so busy throughout the day that they had a difficult time getting all of their absentee ballots processed before the close of the polls at 8 p.m.,” Millard said. “Therefore they worked into the night to process those absentee ballots. A few precincts realized that they could have have used a couple of more workers to handle their absentee ballots because they did not experience a lull throughout the day like they normally do. The stream of voters tended to be pretty constant throughout the day, which made it difficult to process the absentees unless workers were specifically assigned to the absentee ballots.”

This was the first election in Montcalm County when school board elections appeared on the even-year November general election ballot. School district lines do not always follow county lines, so Millard’s office had to obtain election results from precincts in surrounding counties. In several cases, townships from neighboring counties had difficulty balancing voting numbers, making final school board results unavailable until the early morning hours, according to Millard.

“Overall, things went well in the precincts and the election inspectors did a great job,” Millard said. “We didn’t experience any equipment failure and are having success with the Electronic Poll Books (laptops that contain voter registration records) in the precincts. We also had a positive experience with the state’s Elections Management Portal, which gives us access to voter registration statewide, so we knew where to redirect voters if they were in the wrong voting precinct.

“The local clerks also did a great job preparing for the election and made sure they had a sufficient number of voting stations so that lines were kept as minimal as possible,” Millard added. “This was a very long ballot and those jurisdictions that did have lines were due to the amount of time it actually took voters to execute their ballot.”

The Montcalm County Board of Canvassers convened at 1 p.m. Wednesday and will continue to work throughout the end of this week and possible the beginning of next week to certify voting results.

Ionia County voting results were also greatly delayed, with results for all precincts not being posted online until 5:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Ionia County Clerk Tonda Rich did not return several messages seeking comment Wednesday.

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