A guest article by Phil O’Halloran
A battle is underway in Michigan right now over how the crucial election of new Republican leadership will be conducted. At issue in the dispute is the method of counting the votes for the party chair and various other offices. The outgoing Chairman, Ron Weiser, and the lame-duck GOP State Committee have, thus far, shown no intention of permitting the grassroots’ choice — an essentially incorruptible hand count system devised and successfully implemented last Spring by election integrity group, Unity4MRP.
At stake in this election is the leadership of the Michigan Republican Party and its ability to counter the always rapacious and now dangerously unopposed Democrat machine committed to the deconstruction of our constitutional system of government. The selection of the right leadership in a time of peril instantly becomes a matter of state and national security. The splitting of the party into “tribal” factions is cited as another reason to demand a trusted, tested system that will ensure the outcome of the election is accepted by all. Hence the selection of “Unity for MRP,” where MRP stands for Michigan Republican Party.
How do the candidates themselves line up on the issue? A substantial majority of the 11 candidates for Chair, including early supporters Kristina Karamo, Billy Putman, and J.D. Glaser, and more recently, Matt Deperno, have endorsed the Unity4MRP hand count at the convention. (Lena Epstein is the only candidate who has not endorsed the hand count).
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CORRECTION: The original article stated that MIGOP chair candidate Scott Greenlee was not in favor of the hand recount. Mr. Greenlee reached out to the Michigan Conservative News after the article was published to inform us that he is very much in favor of a hand recount at the convention. Greenlee explained that he would also like to see the elimination of voting machines at the state conventions, as he believes they are a “huge waste of money.”
A computer count is an acceptable second choice for Unity4MRP proponents as long as it’s verified by the Unity4MRP Hand Count immediately following the computer vote. In fact, that’s what happened at last April’s Endorsement Convention, where the computer and hand count results matched flawlessly through two rounds of voting. Unity organizer Ann Clark stated: “I assisted in the implementation of the Unity4MRP hand count and found it well thought out and efficient.” Detractors of the hand count pointed to a lengthier process, but Unity supporters countered that most of the bottlenecks occurred before the computer count was finished. In addition, the hand counters were delegate volunteers, more than willing to stay late in order to guarantee a secure election. Some claimed the fact the computer results were confirmed by the hand count proved the computers could be trusted going forward. Conversely, Unity4MRP viewed the hand count as having served as a deterrent to corruption also able to detect computer errors. As such, they argue that it should remain as a necessary safeguard whenever computers are used.
What is currently unclear is whether the machines will be used at all since cost has been an issue for a party reeling from a dearth of donations and that, for the first time, is charging elected delegates a $50 fee to attend the convention. If the machines are jettisoned due to cost or grassroots aversion to computer vote counting, what kind of hand count procedure will be used? Will there be adequate safeguards in the system?
During the 2022 GOP Nominating Convention in August, the hand count process utilized by MIGOP was slipshod at best and, at worst, easily corruptible.
At least three key tenets of a secure hand count system were glaringly absent:
1. The chief tellers were appointed, not selected randomly.
2. There was no chain of custody in the transfer of vote tally sheets from the counting areas across the vast and chaotic convention floor to the main stage computers.
3. There were no challengers or even neutral observers watching the aggregation process up on the stage.
The absence of chain of custody and aggregation observers were frantically and only partially remedied “on the fly” several minutes into the election by Unity4MRP supporters, who had been shut out of the design and details of the process. They had to scramble to assemble observers to accompany the vote tally sheets during transfers and to oversee the vote aggregation process on the stage.
The Unity system enlists volunteer delegates and alternates counting in the open, not paid outside vendors feeding ballots into a black box. In addition, proponents of the Unity ballot processing system maintain that any compromise of the key safeguards contained in the Unity4MRP system will result in a potentially corruptible process. They point to the current climate of widespread grassroots distrust in the wake of the exposure of systemic election corruption in November 2020 and warn that even the perception of a corruptible election will threaten the party unity deemed essential by all Michigan Republicans.