Due diligence done on the Early Voting Agreement—despite media’s exaggerated time pressures
Published October 11, 2023
Written by Henry
Photography by Simply American
According to Ottawa County election data, Prop 2 failed to pass with 53% of the Ottawa County voters voting against it; however, it passed statewide.
With election integrity being one of the most important issues in America, getting the Early Voting Agreement right was a top priority and not taken lightly.
“I am 100% against Prop 2 and early voting,” Commissioner Joe Moss said. “But, my fellow commissioners and I take the election process seriously, and are working to support, encourage, and ensure the County provides increased measures for the safety and security of the election.”
On September 26, 2023, a motion for the “Early Voting Agreement” was passed unanimously by the Board of Commissioners.
Prior to this meeting, local activist media and others once again created a narrative that gave Ottawa County citizens the idea that the Board was mismanaging time-sensitive items.
“Time is running out for Ottawa County to have a coordinated county-wide early voting plan in place to comply with the new state law.” —Sarah Leach, Holland Sentinel, September 15, 2023
According to the County Clerk, Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County is required to submit the plan by the end of October. And, it’s a good thing the County asked questions and didn’t rush.
Ottawa County Clerks Started Planning Before Prop 2 Was Passed
The local clerks began their preparation process before Prop 2 passed—yet, as of the vote, the State still had not finalized all the details pertaining to Prop 2, nor had they designated how or who would get funding.
Prior to Prop 2 passing, Ottawa County clerks started the initial discussion about planning for Prop 2
The County Clerk’s office collected non-binding letters of intent from municipalities
The State passed Public Act 81, which implements early voting
The County Clerk’s office began presenting the Early Voting Agreement to local units of government
The Final Cost Estimate and Agreement documents were sent to the Board
At the September 5, 2023 Finance & Administration Committee meeting, Clerk Roebuck said that the biggest piece, and still unanswered question, was how much the State of Michigan would fund—being he had just received the grant application and still was waiting on the formula of how funds would be dispersed.
The County clerks recommended the agreement before the Board approved it.
In asking questions and not rushing the process, the Board found there was incorrect wording in the agreement that did not comply with state law.
Also, the County was given time to find where they could help pay for costs associated with the new early voting and help implement some extra election safeguards and conveniences.
Following are amendments made to the agreement:
1. Security cameras: The County will purchase and provide a minimum of one mounted security camera for each early voting site to ensure video surveillance on secured rooms where election equipment and materials are stored
2. Line management tool: The County will provide a live line management tool accessible to the public via the County’s website, so that voters will know projected wait times at each Early Voting Center. The County will provide for both installation and additional equipment costs related to these items.
3. Watermarked ballots: Early Voting Centers will use watermarked ballots—which the County Clerk will provide as soon as such ballots can be acquired and sufficiently tested—with the goal of implementing such ballots for the August 2024 primary election
Collaboration At Its Best
“Thank you! If I could add one thing to that,” Moss said, “I think this does really highlight the collaboration and the items that are in the agreement and in the addendum are really from multiple people. Which is pretty cool.”
The “time is running out” narrative had clerks crying at the podium during public comment—over an agreement that didn’t meet state law.
What would have happened if the Board had rammed through an agreement that did not comport with state law and was without proper process?
Slowing down the process, asking questions, having more meetings, and allowing more voices at the table created a better agreement—all for a county that didn’t want Prop 2.