2018-09-09 / News

Local clerks inundated by enormous FOIA ballot request

CHESANING TWP. – During the Thursday, Sept. 6 meeting of the Chesaning Township Board, Township Clerk Fran Kukulis said she has been working on a major statewide Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, as well as assisting with a recount for the Michigan House of Representatives 94th District.

Kukulis told the Citizen that Michigan’s 94th State District is going through a ballot recount. She agreed to help.

During August, Michigan municipal clerks statewide began receiving FOIA requests for photo copies of all of the 2016 November election ballots, including envelopes for absentee ballots and other election materials.

She explained that the FOIA request has already consumed about two weeks of time and it will still require many hours of work to fulfill the request. She explained that the statewide FOIA requests copies of all 2016 November ballots, which are 9 and three-quarter inches wide by 22 inches long. The township’s copy machine isn’t large enough to scan the entire ballot in one scan. Kukulis contacted several companies with copy services. FOIA requires that the best price be obtained.

Among the challenges of fulfilling the request is the clerk is the only person allowed to copy the ballots, until Sept. 28. The copy service would not allow Kukulis to operate the company’s copier. After Sept. 28, clerks can allow someone else to copy the ballots, but the clerk must be present throughout the copying operation. Chesaning Township has approximately 2,500 ballots. The copy service provider estimates it will take 12 hours to copy all of the ballots. The provider is willing to do that over three days in four-hour increments.

“Only a few areas have copy machines big enough to handle this,” she said.

“I did file for the extension,” she said. Kukulis said the price just to copy the ballots will run between $5,000 and $6,000, plus the cost of copying the additional election materials requested.

“I can request 50 percent (of the cost) down. The state says, ‘Don’t mail it until full payment is made,” Kukulis said.

Then she will have to ship it the cheapest way, which she determined will be with the Post Office’s priority flat rate boxes.

The FOIA request was submitted under the name of Emily (no last name) by the United Impact Group, LLC of Astoria, N.Y. The organization would not accept digital copies of the ballots; they have to be printed.

“Apparently, we got word from the state Tuesday that another group may be requesting similar copies. The Michigan Reform Alliance of Ypsilanti is conducting research from randomly selected precincts,” she said.

“I’ve already put two weeks into this. It’s been unreal. As a clerk, the election takes precedence over a FOIA,” Kukulis said.

SAME DAY REGISTRATION

During the township board meeting, Supervisor Bob Corrin said the state has been discussing whether to allow same day voter registration.

Kukulis said, “Same day registration scares me. We have no way to verify.”

Corrin said, “You’ve got outside groups protesting across the country.”

Kukulis said, “Same day registration could possibly cause dual voting with other states. There would be no way to check that.” She added that there’s a rumor going around that first time voters who mail in their registration can’t get an absentee ballot and that could impact college students. But if they are able to verify their identity by the deadline, they would be able to vote absentee. “These are scare tactics,” she said.

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