2016, Bill Schuette — October 16, 2016 at 10:42 am

Kalamazoo County Clerk’s lateness in getting out absentee ballots is, indeed, the fault of Attorney General Bill Schuette


Last week I posted a piece titled, “GOP Kalamazoo County Clerk running for reelection fails to get absentee ballots out in time in violation of federal law“. In the piece, which was based on reporting by WMMT, I essentially blamed Kalamazoo County Clerk Tim Snow’s ineptness for his not getting absentee ballots out on time as required by federal law. Since then, my friend and Washtenaw County Clerk and Register of Deeds Lawrence Kestenbaum wrote a comment on the piece that provides more insight and shows how my characterization was not accurate. Here is his comment:

Tim Snow may be elected as a Republican, but in my experience (doing the same job in Washtenaw County), he is as nonpartisan and dedicated a clerk as anyone.

Moreover, absentee ballot applications are processed and ballots mailed by city and township clerks, not the county clerk. Getting ballots printed in time requires fast work by a specialized printing firm, which is most likely printing ballots for multiple counties at once.

Because of the straight-party litigation, which dragged out WAY beyond the last moment, Washtenaw County’s ballots didn’t get to the printer in time, either. The fact that we had ballots by September 24 anyway has to do with how well our printer coped with that situation.

The schedules for ballot testing and mailing of absentees puts every election administrator in a bind. It is required (and highly advisable!) for the local clerk to run accuracy tests on the newly printed ballots before sending any to absentees. However, those tests are labor-intensive and time-consuming, and in a general election, the ballots are rarely available before the deadline.

The typical compromise is to send out untested ballots to the federal overseas absentees (for which September 24 is an absolute hard deadline with severe consequences), and then test them before sending out domestic ones. And really, very few people stateside are so anxious to get their ballots a week before the end of September that it’s worth skipping the legally required testing.

Tim is neither inept nor careless, and does not deserve this kind of story. Rather, I would criticize Attorney General Schuette for pursuing a pointless appeal to the entire 6th circuit bench, when there was so little time left.

— Larry Kestenbaum (D), Washtenaw County Clerk/Register of Deeds

I stand corrected on this and apologize to Clerk Snow for my commentary. I’m leaving the piece up with an update pointing to this post. Thank you, Larry, for setting me straight.

And just so we are clear, this debacle can be laid at the feet of our extremist Attorney General who is using his power and our tax dollars to promote his future candidacy for governor and his personal extreme ideological views.