Six months later, AG probe into double voting drags on
Lansing — A prosecutorial probe is continuing six months after state election officials referred 31 cases of potential double voting to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office in an effort to root out voter fraud.
A statewide audit released in February found that 31 Michiganians appeared to vote twice in the November presidential election — once by absentee ballot and once in person on Election Day. The discoveries led then-state Elections Director Chris Thomas to refer the cases to Attorney General’s office for the first time in at least 36 years.
Thomas told reporters in February it was part of a “far-reaching” anti-fraud effort to “aggressively root out illegal voting” after the state’s investigation into voting irregularities in Detroit found mismatched vote totals in the Nov. 8 election.
Half a year later, Schuette’s office is still looking into the cases and has no updates on the investigation, said spokeswoman Andrea Bitely.
“Justice has no timeline,” said Bitely, who added that some voters in question are difficult for state investigators to track down.
Bitely said the AG’s office has three years from the date that the offense is discovered before the cases can no longer be prosecuted.
Twenty-nine cases involved voters from Metro Detroit, including 14 from the city. It’s unclear if the cases were simple mistakes or intentional fraud.
A state audit found that mismatches in Detroit between ballots cast and voters recorded were due to election worker errors rather than widespread voter fraud. The audit found 40 more ballots than there were voters.
“We understand that it takes time to investigate,” said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
The Elections Bureau attributed many of Detroit’s vote discrepancies to mishandling provisional ballots, “which are issued to individuals whose names do not appear on the precinct list but who claim to have registered to vote 30 days prior to an election.” In many cases, precinct workers failed to record those ballots correctly, according to the audit.
Other errors were caused by misusing electronic poll books. Some Detroit precinct inspectors failed to properly enter data into the computer system and did not always log provisional and spoiled ballots, according to the audit. In addition, the state found some precinct workers failed to properly document irregularities, including tabulator jams.
The audit said those mistakes led to the discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and the number of voters recorded in Detroit’s logbooks.
“I can’t get into the specifics and ongoing review of an investigation,” Bitely said. “There’s no specific timeline when you have an investigation in front of you. It can take a few days or it can take several months.
“We’ll be making a determination at some point, but that point is not today.”