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Despite explanation for election night glitches, calls persist for Wayne County primary audit

Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers heard what went wrong with the county’s election results website last Tuesday, as questions and concerns linger about problems with the Aug. 7 primary election.

The Grand Rapids-based company ElectionSource runs the site that reports Wayne County’s election results. As vote totals started coming in last Tuesday, the site initially reported the results of some races wrong before shutting the site down altogether for a few hours.

ElectionSource CEO Ryan DeLongchamp told the board that was the result of an “internal error” caused by larger-than-expected data files from the county.

Those files contained “a record-breaking amount of data we’d never seen before,” DeLongchamp said, causing the website to start “going so slow it combined data.” That, combined with a deluge of web traffic, caused things to go so haywire that the company temporarily shut the site down at the Wayne County clerk’s request.  

DeLongchamp said the company was at fault for the problems. He said the website glitches reflected technical problems that were “totally separate” from the vote-counting process, and did not reflect tabulation actual vote tabulation errors or any third-party interference.

“We let the county down,” DeLongchamp said. “We can assure this will never happen again.”

But Detroit City Council member Mary Sheffield, who attend the Board of Canvassers meeting, says she still wants see ElectionSource’s full report on what went wrong.

“There needs to be more answers as to exactly what happened. And then how do we avoid this in the future?” Sheffield said. “I mean, we’re in a new age of technology. There’s no reason a site should have to crash because there’s too much [election] data coming in.”

Sheffield says Council members are also concerned about other voting problems reported in Detroit. They included power outages at polling places, and poll workers giving voters bad information, causing confusion and long lines.

There were “several issues that really just make it more of a reason why people don’t vote,” Sheffield said.

Multiple elected officials, including Wayne County clerk Cathy Garrett, have called on the Michigan Secretary of State to conduct an election audit of last week’s primary to restore public faith in the election process. A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on that.

The Detroit delegation in Lansing also wants an audit, citing “last minute poll location changes without notification and [voters] being turned away from their former poll only to find that poll workers did not have accurate information.” They are also disturbed by the power outages and “breeching of voter confidence with the use of software companies without adequate bandwidth.”

“Dismissing the aforementioned disenfranchisements as glitches is unacceptable, as it erodes public trust that the fundamental rights of citizens are not being protected,” the Detroit caucus said in a statement.

State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) said some of these responsibilities rest with the Detroit city clerk.

“The Wayne County clerk’s office does not do tabulation,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “So we need to understand, they can only reflect or present what they’re fed. That comes from the city clerk, and we still have questions and inquiry that we want addressed.”

By state law, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers has until Aug. 21 to certify the county’s primary results.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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