Oakland County Clerk/Republicans

July 13, 2020

TINA BARTON

 
Barton resides in Springfield Township and holds an undergraduate degree from Great Lakes University and a Masters from Great Lakes University. She had been a deputy clerk in Bloomfield Township and is currently the city clerk for Rochester Hills. Barton has been involved in both professionals and community groups.

VOTING FRAUD

The Republican Party on a national basis has latched onto alleged “voter fraud” as a campaign issue, often times as a guise for voter suppression that has been documented in a number of states in the South and Western portions of the country. Has there been voter fraud in Oakland County, and, if so, how widespread? How would you counteract voter fraud if it exists on any measurable basis?


I have been an election administrator in Oakland County for over 15 years and I am unaware of widespread voter fraud in our county. It is important to counter misinformation with fact. The fact is that no system is 100 percent foolproof; fraud could be committed at the precinct as well as through absentee voting. We must recognize and value the “gatekeepers” of the process: voter identification or signed affidavits, signature checks, receiving boards, canvasses, audits, and imprisonment and fines. As with any crime, a report would be filed, the police would investigate, and the prosecutor would prosecute if they had enough supporting evidence. Counteracting fraud could be a different approach for varied scenarios. My approach would be to isolate the incidents and determine what led to the fraud and how the fraud was carried out. The solution could be a combination of enforcement and education.

NO-REASON ABSENTEE VOTING

Voters in 2018 overwhelmingly approved no-reason absentee voting. Did you support that? Have the provisions of the ballot issue been implemented or have there been instances where election officials have not followed the ballot proposal exactly, as recently outlined in a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Michigan?


I do support no-reason absentee voting. No-reason absentee voting was introduced in 2015 by then Rep. Lisa Lyons and then Secretary Johnson. With the passage of Prop 18-3, it has been implemented under Secretary Benson. In response to not counting ballots postmarked on Election Day but received after Election Day, The Election Officials’ Manual, Michigan Bureau of Elections Chapter 6, November 2019, states, “An absentee ballot must be transmitted to the applicant by mail if there is an adequate amount of time for the voter to receive the ballot by mail, vote the ballot and return the ballot prior to 8:00 p.m. on the date of the election.” Any contradictions in election laws or new interpretations of laws must be cured through legislative action or a court ruling. In response to whether clerks are meeting the 40-day deadline to have ballots issued/ready to be issued, you must recognize that the 60-day certification deadline becomes a challenge for proofing, printing, delivering, testing, and issuing AV ballots. In March, there were jurisdictions throughout the state that received their ballots much later than others. The timeline must be adjusted on the front end in order to allow time for the clerks to receive their ballots in adequate time to meet the 40-day deadline.

CHANGES TO ABSENTEE VOTING

What legislative changes do you think are needed to the current absentee voting system to allow for improved administration of elections by clerks?


Our Permanent AV List jumped from approximately 8,300 voters to over 15,000 after the passage of Prop 18-3. In August of 2019, over 80 percent of the ballots cast in Rochester Hills were done by absent voter ballot. The Bi-Partisan Policy Center released a report earlier this year and made the following recommendation: “Election administrators should be permitted to process vote-by-mail ballots beginning at least seven days prior to Election Day but must be prohibited from producing results.” I have testified before the Senate Elections Committee and openly advocated for more time for the clerks to process absentee ballots. “Processing” could take on different meanings. I have requested the ability to remove the ballot from the envelope and prepare the ballot for tabulation, with no tabulation taking place until Election Day. The integrity of the process is paramount. We take our jobs seriously and there are consequences for any clerk or person who violates election laws. This is not only an efficiency issue for clerks, but it is also a safety concern for our senior workers who will be working grueling hours and then driving home.

MAILING ABSENTEE APPLICATIONS

The Michigan Secretary of State announced she would be mailing applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters in the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some local clerks had already made plans to do the same thing. Do you think local clerks should be doing such mailings in the future? Is voting by mail the future of elections even once this crisis has passed?


In the Michigan Bureau of Elections, Election Officials' Manual, Chapter 6, November 2019, under "Maintaining a Permanent Absent Voter Application List.” The last sentence in that paragraph specifically states, "Clerks may not mail absent voter applications without having received a verbal or written request." MI Court of Appeals 2007 decision in Taylor v Currie, the court held it was unlawful for a clerk to send unsolicited, unrequested AV applications to voters. That is “the law” of this state unless/until the legislature changes the election law or the Michigan Supreme Court reverses Taylort. As mentioned in a previous answer, we were already seeing dramatic increases in absentee voting due to the passage of Prop 18-3. While for some voting by mail is about convenience, the pandemic may cause the voter to view it more as a matter of health and safety than convenience. I do believe that voting by mail will continue to be the choice of voters post COVID-19.

ONLINE IMPACT IN CLERKS OFFICE

If there was any lesson learned during the pandemic it was that some of the in-person contact that has been part of our past routines can now be replaced by virtual or online interactions. Is the county clerk's office up-to-date in terms of employing digital/online applications to fulfill office duties? Please explain.


I am always looking for ways to work smarter not harder, as well as opportunities to provide better customer options. I value each person’s time and resources. I have been recognized nationally for innovation. I specifically received an Outstanding Innovations in Elections award from the Election Assistance Commission for an Election Day Precinct Support Portal. Other large cities in Michigan have adopted the portal successfully. Additionally, I just created an informational video about the 2020 absent voter process. This video has been shared by nearly 100 clerks across the state. One thing I would implement immediately is the use of several social media platforms to relay information. This is currently only being done on a very limited basis. I would create a Clerk’s Office Innovation Committee that would meet once a month and brainstorm ideas about how we can provide better service, utilize online tools, and save money by streamlining processes.

REASON FOR RUNNING

Obviously you must think improvements are needed in the county clerk's office or you would not be seeking office. What failings to do you see with the incumbent county clerk and what specifically needs to change, either on the election or the register of deeds portion of the office?


I have a healthy record of collaborating with clerks, election officials, and advocacy groups from across our county, state and nation. I am respected for my ability to reach across the aisle in order to get work done. In the last year, I have been a speaker at GOP events, for the DNC, as well as with the ACLU and Indivisible. There is no question that in August of 2018 the incumbent county clerk not only let the clerks of this county down, she let the voters of our county down. Voters and clerks in Oakland County deserve and should demand a partner and advocate in the county clerk’s office. We need a county clerk that is less concerned about partisan politics and more concerned about people and processes. We need a leader. We need a leader that has a vision for our county and not just for her career.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

Why should voters select you over your primary opponent? Be specific.


I am the city clerk for the City of Rochester Hills and have served as an election administrator for over 15 years.  I have an MA in Management and Leadership and a BA in Business Administration. I am certified by the IIMC as a Master Municipal Clerk and a Michigan Professional Municipal Clerk II by the MAMC.  I serve on the Election Security Commission, appointed by SOS Benson.  I also serve on the Election Assistance Commission Board of Advisors, appointed by the US Conference of Mayors.  I have received a Clearie Award for Election Innovation. Under my leadership, Rochester Hills was the first city in Michigan to conduct a Risk Limiting Audit pilot. I have been honored by Leadership Oakland as a Leader of Leaders in Public Service and by the MAMC as the City Clerk of the Year. I am the President of the Oakland County Clerks Association. I am a professional Clerk, my primary opponent is an attorney with no experience in elections. Our elections are too important to place them in the hands of someone with no experience.

PATRICK WILSON

 
Wilson lives in Bloomfield Township and has an undergraduate and law degree from Western Michigan University.

VOTING FRAUD

The question is biased. It presumes the Republican party is attempting to suppress votes which can not be further from the truth. Republicans want everybody to vote and for their vote to be counted.  As a Republican candidate I want all legitimately casted votes counted.

NO-REASON ABSENTEE VOTING

The clerk’s job is to ensure the law is followed and not allow politics or partisanship to play a role in the performance of their duties as clerk.

CHANGES TO ABSENTEE VOTING

We are living in unprecedented times with Covid-19 and the difficulties it will create for in-person voting as well as absentee voting. It is not the job of the clerk to legislate, but to work with the legislature for improved administration to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to vote and every vote counts.

MAILING ABSENTEE APPLICATIONS

Going to the polls is a treasured American institution. People like to go in and vote and get their sticker that says “ I voted.” No matter what happens, going forward people need to be able to vote in person and feel safe doing it.

ONLINE IMPACT IN CLERKS OFFICE

It is always important to look to new technologies to improve accessibility and lower costs while improving performance.

REASON FOR RUNNING

The clerk’s office should be made more accessible and user friendly through the use of technology. The clerk’s office and register of deeds needs an app that would allow for greater accessibility, improved performance and better serve the community.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

You deserve a clerk’s office that continues to improve everyday. I know that together we can set new standards for clerks’ offices state and nationwide. I would be honored to continue serving the community in a greater role as county clerk.

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