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Ballot drop box security questioned in Lansing

Michigan GOP sends video showing ballot drop box is unlocked
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 11:34 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Election security is constantly called into question this election, including by the Michigan Republican Party is questioning the security of absentee voting in Lansing.

Wednesday morning the Michigan Republican Party issued a news release with links to videos claiming to show election drop boxes unlocked, and with ballots accessible inside.

“I am outraged at the complete negligence shown by the Lansing City Clerk’s office and Jocelyn Benson. This is evidence that our election system has potentially been compromised,” Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox said in the press release.

“There is a huge pressure this election,” said Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk. “I think anything people are doing to try and discourage people from voting is a sad reflection on them.”

Video shared by the Michigan GOP was posted to Facebook September 25 shows a drop box outside the Foster Community Center left unlocked.

The video shows an envelope in the bottom of the box.

“Whatever it is is in there obviously doesn’t have any green borders on it, so it is not one of our ballot return envelopes. I do not know what the video shows what the item is in the box,” said Swope.

Swope said it’s impossible for it to be a ballot like the person recording the video claims because it was posted shortly after the box was installed and before voters received their ballots in the mail.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is accusing the Michigan Republican Party of spreading misinformation likely intended to suppress voter turnout.

That’s why the matter was turned over to the Attorney General to be investigated as election misinformation.

Late Wednesday, the Michigan Republican Party issued a statement calling for an investigation into the security of drop boxes statewide.

It also criticized Lansing for giving voters the impression the boxes were secure, and attacked Secretary of State Benson saying she is “more concerned with playing partisan games than she is about election integrity.”

However, Swope said this could have easily been avoided.

“If I were the person that had come across this drop box. I would’ve number one, locked it pushed it closed and number two i would’ve contacted the authority that was responsible for it,” Swope said.

13 of Lansing’s 15 drop boxes are new this election cycle.

Swope said the new ones automatically lock when latched, making it easy for anyone to correct an issue.

“I don’t have an issue with people making sure they are locked. people trying to tamper with them or break them or try any other type of intimidation to keep voters from using them should not be tolerated and should be investigated,” he said.

This is the first major general election since Michigan voters approved any-reason absentee ballots in 2018.

Swope said more than 30,000 people in Lansing are taking advantage of that option during the pandemic.

“We will always have to be very vigilant that is why we took the step of installing permanent security cameras,”

Cameras connected to the Lansing Police Department are watching 14 of the 15 ballot drop boxes.

Swope said a camera will be installed at the box outside the election office on South Washington shortly.

Concerned voters can check the status of there ballots at LansingVotes.com.

Full Statement from Michigan Republican Party:

"The video, filmed on September 25, and distributed today by the Michigan Republican Party, showed an unlocked ballot drop box. The video was initially posted to Facebook by a concerned citizen on September 25. This date is after communities were authorized to send absentee ballots by the Secretary of State’s office and well after the local clerk stated that the boxes could be used to drop off absent voter/mail-in ballot applications. The video exposed an envelope in the unlocked drop box that could have possibly been a ballot based on the video’s date of filming.

Upon further review, it appears that the envelope in the unlocked box may not have been an absentee ballot.

Lansing election officials told voters as early as September 18 that dropboxes were available to accept AV ballots, absentee voting applications, and voter registration forms. Lansing voters were given the impression that dropboxes were a secure place where their documents would be safeguarded. The video released shows that the box was, in fact, unlocked.

We are hearing from a number of clerks around the state that they were given dropboxes that are not suited to protect the integrity of the ballot. Clerks are concerned that there is an unsecure opening that jeopardizes the security of the contents of the dropbox. This needs to be investigated.

It’s amazing that when the Michigan Republican Party shares multiple videos demonstrating that a ballot box in Lansing has issues with its locking mechanism and calling for the Secretary of State to investigate, we find ourselves the subject of an investigation request. Clearly Jocelyn Benson is more concerned with playing partisan games than she is about election integrity." - Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox

Full Statement from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office:

“Ballot drop boxes have been securely locked since ballots were available. The Michigan Republican Party’s press release states that their video was shot two weeks ago (September 23), before absentee ballots were even mailed to voters, and the envelope in the video is clearly not a ballot envelope. The claim there were ‘ballots inside’ is easily disproven by their own video. By sharing blatantly false statements in the press release, they are irresponsibly spreading misinformation likely intended to suppress voting among Michigan citizens. We have referred this matter to the Attorney General for investigation as election misinformation.” - spokesperson Jake Rollow

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