| Detroit Free Press
Michigan Secretary of State gives one-on-one interview with Free Press during
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson talks about Michigan election
LANSING A failure to update software was the reason for a computer glitch that caused massive errors in unofficial election results reported from Antrim county, the Michigan Department of State said late Friday.
“The erroneous reporting of unofficial results from Antrim county was a result of accidental error on the part of the Antrim County clerk,” the state agency that oversees elections said in a news release.
There was no problem with the voting machines or vote totals, which were preserved on tapes printed from the tabulators, the state said. The problem occurred when the totals by precinct were combined into candidate county-wide totals for transfer to the state, using election management system software, the state agency said in a news release.
“All ballots were properly tabulated. However, the clerk accidentally did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results.”
State officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether they track when and how local officials update their election-related software or whether local officials are required to report needed updates to the state, once they are completed.
But they said any such errors in any county would be caught during the canvassing process, before results are declared official, when boards composed of two Democrats and two Republicans compare the numbers on the tapes printed from the tabulators to the unofficial results that were reported to the state.
Antrim County on Thursday posted updated and revised numbers for the presidential and U.S. Senate races after discovering major errors in the numbers the county initially sent to the Secretary of State’s Office. The effect of the errors gave higher-than-accurate vote totals to Democratic candidates in the heavily Republican county.
The revised numbers — arrived at after manually entering the results from printed tabulated tapes for all 16 precincts — show the northern Michigan county is still red, just not as dark a shade as it was in 2016.
The county is reporting Republican President Donald Trump beat Democrat Joe Biden by about 2,500 votes, with Trump receiving 56% of the slightly more than 17,000 votes cast for president and Biden receiving 42%.
Political observers had expressed shock early Wednesday when the county transferred numbers to the state showing Biden beating Trump by about 3,000 votes. Antrim is a Republican stronghold where local GOP officials have mostly run unopposed in recent elections.
In 2016 in Antrim County, Trump got about 62% support, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 4,000 votes.
County Clerk Sheryl Guy told the Free Press Wednesday that officials sent the initial results to the state without checking them. But they later asked: “How could Democrats take over this county?” she said.
Because most counties in the state — especially smaller ones — use the Dominion Voting Systems equipment that Antrim County does, concerns were raised this week about whether other county results could have been posted with errors.
But that’s not the case, according to the Department of State, which stressed in the news release that the votes were correctly tabulated and the printed tapes showing the results were also accurate in Antrim.
“In order to report unofficial results, county clerks use election management system software to combine the electronic totals from tabulators and submit a report of unofficial results,” the release said. “Because the clerk did not update software, even though the tabulators counted all the ballots correctly, those accurate results were not combined properly when the clerk reported unofficial results.”