Audit shows Michigan voter file breached

LANSING (AP) — An audit of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections released recently found discrepancies that allowed an unauthorized user to access the state’s voter file and inadequate training of elections officials in over 500 local governments.

The audit by the Office of Auditor General found that 32 counties, 83 cities and 426 townships lack fully accredited clerks nearly two weeks before a general election year begins.

The audit also found that an unauthorized user, who was a former employee, accessed the state’s file of 7.5 million qualified voters. There was no modification or destruction of records in the voter file in the period reviewed.

Michigan election law requires local clerks to participate in accreditation courses and complete continuing education at least once every two years to stay accredited.

The audit conducted between Oct. 1, 2016, and April 30, 2019, revealed that 12 counties, 38 cities, and 290 townships had no election official with full accreditation.

The auditor urged the election bureau to provide more training and alert clerks of their statutory training requirements more often.

“We recommend that (the bureau) improve its process to promote accreditation to help ensure that local election officials are fully trained and updated on Michigan's election process,” the report said.

But several local officials pushed back against the audit’s findings.

Ecorse City Clerk Dana Hughes said the audit is incorrect, adding that she and her deputy were accredited in 2014 and have remained compliant with the required updates every two years.

“That’s a lie” Hughes said. “I’ve always had my accreditation.”

As of last Friday, Hughes is not shown in Bureau of Elections records as being fully up-to-date on accreditation, said Kelly Miller, a spokeswoman for the Michigan auditor general's office.

The Michigan Secretary of State oversees the election bureau, and the audit reviewed information that fell under the purview of former Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, whom was succeeded by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Jan. 1, 2019.

On the security of elections, Benson spokesman Jake Rollow said the election bureau already started to address some of issues in the audit report and will continue improvements through 2020.

“Our elections are secure — the audit did not find any instances of illegal voting or improper modification of voter registration records — and the Bureau of Elections is continually updating its election security infrastructure,” Rollow said in a statement.

Johnson declined to comment on the audit.

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