by DREW HOWARD
The Oakland County Board of Commissioners announced the creation of a bipartisan committee purposed with reviewing its election infrastructure following reports of ballot shortages across several precincts during the August 7 primary election.
Voters across polling locations throughout Oakland County reported that precincts “ran out of ballots,” according to the press release, resulting in significant delays on election night.
A higher rate of voter turnout may have been partially to blame for the shortage, as Oakland County Elections Director Joe Rozell reported a record-breaking 320,502 voters (34 percent) showed up at the polls for the primary election. The previous record dates back to August 2010 when just 27 percent participated.
According to the press release, reports of ballot shortages occurred in the following precincts: Ferndale, Oak Park, Berkley, Farmington Hills, Pontiac, Birmingham, Bloomfield, Southfield, West Bloomfield Township, Commerce Township, Wolverine Lake, and Troy.
The new committee, dubbed “The Ad Hoc Committee of Oakland County Election Infrastructure,” will also aim to seek public input and make recommendations for approval. Members of the bipartisan panel include Tom J. Berman (R-Keego Harbor), Nancy Quarles (D-Southfield), Marcia Gershenson (D-Bloomfield Twp.), and Adam Kochenderfer (R-Rochester Hills). Several members of the new ad hoc committee expressed frustration over the ballot shortage issues Tuesday night and stressed the importance of safeguarding voter rights moving forward. “I am pleased to have been appointed to serve as co-chair of this ad hoc committee, which represents a bipartisan effort to study Oakland County’s election system infrastructure,” Commissioner Berman said in the press release. “The poor execution and challenges voters faced at the polls on Tuesday are inexcusable.”
“The historic voter turnout in Oakland County was a testament to an incredible civic awakening that is occurring throughout our communities and country,” Commissioner Nancy Quarles said. “We need to do everything in our power to ensure we protect everyone’s hard-won, fundamental civil and voter rights as we prepare for the November election.”
The Board of Commissioners has also created an online portal for voters to submit issues and concerns related to their experiences at the polls on election day at oakgov.com/boc.
In a press release distributed two days after the primary election, 27 city and township clerks alleged that Oakland County failed to provide them with enough ballots despite their insistence on ordering more.
“We could tell weeks before the election that our ballot orders would not be sufficient, however, we were not allowed to increase ballot quantities due to the fact that county clerks control ballot ordering for elections such as the August Primary,” the press release reads. “When the county did increase ballot quantities the week before the election, it was by a very small percentage and still not sufficient for most of our communities.”
The press release also condemned comments by Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown passing the blame onto municipal clerks. “Recently, the Oakland County Clerk has commented in the media that the ballot shortages were due to municipal clerks not being prepared for a large turnout, but that is simply not true,” the press release reads.
It continues: “Additionally, the County Clerk’s assertion that local clerks were withholding ballots from precincts while crowds of voters demanded to vote is both disheartening and untrue. We want to assure all our voters that we did everything within our authority to make ballots available to all the precincts in our jurisdictions.”
Brown announced on Wednesday, August 8, that she has launched an investigation to determine what exactly went wrong in the polls.