GOP members of Delta County canvassing board refuse to certify recall results

By Michigan Advance

May 17, 2024

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Following overwhelming victories in a recall election last week, the Republican members of the Delta County Board of Canvassers are refusing to certify the election results.

“What they’re doing is putting doubt in our local election people, which is sad because these are our family and our neighbors and our friends and their honesty and integrity is being questioned by these people with absolutely no merit,” said Kelli Van Ginhoven, one of three challengers who defeated three Republican members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners on May 7.

Unofficial results indicated that Van Ginhoven, a Democrat, and independent candidates Myra Croasdell and Matt Jensen, each defeated Republican Commissioners David Moyle, Robert Barron, and Robert Petersen by an approximately 3-1 margin. The incumbents were targeted for recall after they voted in February 2023 to fire County Administrator Emily DeSalvo.

DeSalvo, who had served as the county’s administrator since 2019, was fired immediately after she openly criticized the board for unethical and disrespectful behavior.

Both Van Ginhoven and Jensen received 72% of the vote in their respective races against incumbents Moyle and Petersen, while Croasdell got 73% in defeating Barron.

When the county canvassers met this past Tuesday, however, Republican members Bonnie Hakkola and LeeAnne Oman refused to certify. The board, consisting of two Democrats and two Republicans, has to produce at least three votes in order to certify.

Van Ginhoven tells Michigan Advance that the GOP canvassers cited, without evidence, irregularities in the vote totals based solely on the similarity across all three races.

“However, from our standpoint, from the three people who won the election, our numbers, our votes, are almost identical to the amount of people who signed the recall petitions,” said Van Ginhoven. “So, for example, in the district that I won, District 4, the number of people who signed the original recall petition was 823, and the votes I received were a little over 900. And that can be also represented with the other two districts. They’re almost identical. So while they’re talking about algorithms and being almost identical, we can say that they’re almost identical as well, but we have the factual basis on why that was. They are more or less blaming it on the tabulators.”

The main role of canvassing boards is to ensure that the number of votes that were cast in an election accurately matches what is indicated in the poll books.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, “Boards of County Canvassers … do not have a general mandate to examine every aspect of the election process. Instead, the Boards exist to check the mathematical consistency of election records and to ensure that the vote totals reported by the county to the state accurately reflect the sum of the vote totals reported to the county by each precinct and absent voter counting board. The Boards have no other duties with respect to the canvass or certification of an election.”

While the board’s failure to certify the election has delayed the swearing in of the new commissioners, they will meet again on Monday, at which point they will have a final opportunity to provide certification.

“And if at that time, the Republicans are still not willing to sign off on the certification, then everything’s going to have to be trucked downstate on the county dime and go to the State Board of Canvassers,” said Van Ginhoven. “I have no doubt that the state will do what is required. I find it extremely disappointing that people in my district and in my county are refusing to do what is their oath of office.”

Van Ginhoven says that what the defeated incumbents and their supporters fail to acknowledge is that the firing of DeSalvo was extremely unpopular as she had built a reputation as a straight-shooter.

“People didn’t know if she was a Democrat or a Republican, and prior to her being the county administrator, she had worked in the court system for many years. So she had an excellent rapport with a lot of people in the county even before she became our administrator,” said Van Ginhoven. “Our community is conservative, but I also think that in terms of reality, they know the difference between right and wrong, and what these three did to her was very wrong.”

READ MORE: Michigan reinstates voters amid right-wing scheme to challenge voter registrations

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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