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Michigan election numbers will change after Bay County votes were not properly imported

Ballots from Bay City and Williams Township weren’t included in final totals
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s Office is urging voters to be patient once polls...
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s Office is urging voters to be patient once polls close election night.(WJRT)
Published: Nov. 6, 2020 at 5:02 PM EST
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UPDATE: The office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson later released a statement. It said human error led to thousands of votes in Bay County not getting counted on election night.

Below is the full statement from Director of Communications & External Affairs Jake Rollow:

“The unofficial results in Bay County were initially reported without all precincts included. This was a human error committed after all votes had been accurately counted and accurate paper tallies had been printed and stored. It was an isolated error limited to this jurisdiction. Election clerks and their staff members work tirelessly and ethically, but like all of us occasionally make mistakes. As there are thousands of precincts in Michigan, it is not uncommon for there to be a few reporting errors in any election, which is part of the reason that all counties canvass their results. In these precincts in Bay County all votes were counted correctly and tallies were printed correctly, which ensured that any initial reporting error in the unofficial results would be corrected in the county canvass."

BAY COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The result of Michigan’s presidential election won’t change but the margin of victory will after officials discovered thousands of ballots that weren’t properly imported in election software in Bay County.

Bay County experienced a red wave on Tuesday with Republicans faring better than expected. The party had a good night, but not quite as good as the margins previously reported.

President Donald Trump beat Democrat rival Joe Biden in Bay County by about 9,000 votes in the election, based on the first numbers that were reported. However, the gap narrowed on Friday with the newly discovered votes.

Election workers in Bay County were going through ballot books Friday as the process of certifying the vote totals continued across the state when the issue was discovered. ABC12 News has learned that votes from three precincts in Bay County -- two in Bay City and one in Williams Township -- were not properly imported Tuesday night.

Political observers believe the majority of votes from the two Bay City precincts would have leaned toward the Democrat candidates.

Bay County Clerk Cynthia Luczak said the three precincts consisted mainly of absentee ballots. She explained that, for reasons unknown on Friday afternoon, those votes went into a different section of the Bay County election software system and were not entered in the total results.

Once the missing votes were added to the total Friday, it does not appear they changed the outcome of any of the races in Bay County. But it will change the vote totals for all candidates in those three precincts, including the presidential and U.S. Senate races.

Biden will add 4,935 votes to his winning total in Michigan while Trump will add 2,428 votes. In the Senate race, Democrat incumbent Gary Peters will add 4,927 votes to his winning total while Republican challenger John James will add 2,353 votes.

The 96th District State House race, where incumbent Democrat Brian Elder was one of very few sitting state lawmakers to lose on Tuesday, also narrowed significantly with the votes discovered Friday. Republican Tim Beson still won the race after adding in the votes, but not by as much as initially reported.

The first vote totals from Bay County showed Beson winning by more than 6,000 votes. However, Elder received 4,015 more votes while Beson received 1,948 more votes Friday, so Beson’s margin of victory shrank to about 4,000.

ABC12 News reached out to Elections Systems and Software, which made Bay County’s election tabulation software, and a spokesperson says this was a procedural error importing the data, not a software error. The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office also could not be reached for comment.

A similar situation happened in Oakland County, which actually changed the outcome of a race. A local clerk there inadvertently sent ballots from several precincts over to the county clerk’s office twice.

The error originally awarded the County Board of Commissioners seat for Rochester Hills to the Democratic candidate when in fact, the Republican won. The Oakland County clerk said in a statement that this is proof that the process of checks and balances works.

In Montcalm County, the election workers for Home Township and the village of Edmore, which is surrounded by the township, accidentally mixed up ballots for the two jurisdictions. Some voters from Home Township got village ballots on Tuesday while some village voters didn’t get to vote in the village president race, according to the Associated Press.

About 500 voters in the village of Edmore will receive new ballots by mail. Results showing incumbent Edmore Village President Gloria Burr won by five votes are set aside and the results could change depending on results from the mail-in revote.

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