Michigan Voting Accuracy

Saginaw County Canvas Confirms Tabulator Accuracy in 2020 Presidential Election

    icon Nov 08, 2020
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In the wake of confusion over mixed up vote reporting in Antrim County, which initially alarmed election officials, Saginaw's voting systems have so far proven reliable and accurate.  On Thursday afternoon, Review Magazine publisher & editor Robert Martin visited the Saginaw County Board of Canvassers, who were going through the laborious process of checking and verifying all votes logged in Saginaw County; and the co-author of this piece, Greg Schmid, is a Republican who volunteered on the Board as a canvasser.

Saginaw uses the same voting tabulation and reporting system as the Antrim County election officials do, and so the REVIEW  looked into this anomaly to make sure every person's vote was counted correctly.

Simply put, the issue in Antrim County involved a situation where the spreadsheet printout software that shows the election results put the right tabulated numbers into the wrong boxes.   When these boxes were compared to the tabulator paper tape printout, the systematic disconnect between the tabulators and the spreadsheets just jumped out to canvassers and made everyone aware that the spreadsheet of election results needed to be corrected to show accurate results printed from the tabulator.  

The situation in Antrim was due to an incomplete update of the system software prior to the election.  Antrim officials correctly uploaded an update to the tabulator software, but they forgot to update the matching spreadsheet software update. That spreadsheet software accumulates tabulator results from each precinct and populates spreadsheet fields for each precinct organized by office and candidate - this is the spreadsheet people read to determine the winners of each race.

This anomaly was an accident and did not happen at all in Saginaw County. It was easily discovered in Antrim because the tabulators all print a paper tape of the actual election results. The County Board of Canvassers compares the actual tabulator tape to the "unofficial election results" spreadsheet, by hand they read back precinct by precinct, race by race, with each result compared side by side by one Republican and one Democrat official.

When all the numbers do not match the canvassing officials are immediately alerted to problems. In general, machine tabulators are much more accurate than the human eye and the spreadsheets remove much human error from the tabulation and reporting of election results.

Every ballot tabulator was stress tested and certified prior to election using Test Deck precast ballots at a state mandated "public accuracy test." 

All machines worked properly in Saginaw, and were tested in public and certified in public.

Saginaw's voting system is not without flaws, but it is beyond reproach and a model for the rest of the counties to follow.

County Clerk Michael Hanley prioritized election integrity when he assumed office four years ago by hiring an election expert to modernize our approach to elections in Saginaw:  Kyle Bostwick has worked hard to train the dozens of election clerks in Saginaw County so that the election day and subsequent election certification process are credible. Bostwick personally programs all the tabulator and reporting software , and the County IT department never touches the election computer or any tabulators.

“Mike was wise enough to recruit Kyle, who made the smart decision to program all the software himself without outsourcing it to the vendor for updates,” states Schmid. “He took extensive training to accomplish this, and the result is that he controls the update process and knows how to stress test the whole system in advance so that malfunctions are proactively addressed and corrected before the real counting begins. Gratiot, Tuscola, Sanilac, Ingham, and Kent counties also program their own software for each election.”

“Also, each township clerk in Saginaw County performs a "Public Accuracy Test" before each election to test the tabulators by running pre-cast sample ballots through the tabulators. This test is open to the public at a meeting published in the news so the public has notice of it, and it must be attended by the Clerk Supervisor, and Treasurer (the election board) of each township. Sets of pre-cast  test ballots of 100 ballots or more (called test-decks) are distributed by the county clerk, run through each tabulator to verify the accuracy of the vote counters.”

Now Mike Hanley will be passing the torch to the clerk-elect Vanessa Guerra, herself an attorney and six year state representative who also served on this year’s Board of Canvassers.   She aims to make every part of every government process transparent and accessible to taxpayers and all members of the community on the internet, so that people can know and trust their government to be honest and upfront.

The process of election canvassing is set up to give equal representation to Republicans and Democrats; there is a built in adversarial dynamic in the auditing process to insure each side has its say in certifying elections.

Notes Greg Schmid: “As a partisan Republican member of the Saginaw County Board of Canvassers, I have spent days this past week in session with my Democrat counterparts, checking the details of each election book for each city and township, and comparing tabulator tapes to the election result spreadsheet in each and every race. The board has found no significant unresolved anomalies anywhere in the election record. The process and the vote count was fair and accurate, as far as the canvassers can check without doing a hand recount to validate the results. This may happen soon, but if history is our guide candidates rarely if ever improve their position significantly by a recount since the tabulators are so much more accurate and reliable than human beings when properly tested in advance and verified by the post-election canvassing process.”

The State of Michigan also put this release out yesterday, which offers a solid explanation of the situation up in Antrim County.


Saginaw is in fact one of the 40-some counties that use the Dominion brand of counting equipment and software. The software is called the ‘Democracy Suite’ and requires that when you update the tabulator counting software on each counter you also need to update the matching spreadsheet software or your spreadsheet won’t populate with the right numbers in the intended fields.


This component to the Dominion system has proven to be similarly problematic in other counties and states, especially with states or counties that use different AV tabulation systems that do not leave paper trails. Two counties in Georgia had to halt voting because of a glitch by a vendor uploading an update to their election machines the night before election day. Apparently the devices crashed and they we reusing electronic poll books made by Knowink. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/04/georgia-election-machine-glitch-434065

Different types of Dominion systems are used in 30 states including Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.

Unfortunately, vulnerabilities within some of these different systems have thrown up red flags in the past.



“I have always worried about these things until I started canvassing,” reflects Schmid.   “The types of errors detected in Antrim are accountable because there are paper ballots.  There are definitely things that worry me, too, but they are outside the canvass. AV voting was always restricted because it allows a way to launder bad ballots into the system.  A paper trail is the only safeguard. We won this debate in Saginaw County a long time ago. With attention to checks and balances in the process it can be audited. Touchscreens are cheap and fast but not reliable or accountable.”



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