Burr Oak Twp. Clerk barred from administering elections 'until further notice'

BURR OAK TWP. — Burr Oak Township Clerk Jackie Wells has been directed by the Michigan Bureau of Elections to not administer elections “until further notice” due to alleged “serious violations” of Michigan election law regarding the issuance of absentee voter ballots for Tuesday’s primary election.

According to a three-page letter to Wells from Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater obtained by the Commercial-News dated Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Bureau received reports that Wells allegedly issued absentee voter ballots rather than absentee voter ballot applications to voters on the township’s permanent absentee voter application list. The bureau also received reports that Wells allegedly removed returned absentee voter ballots from their return envelopes and placed them in a separate return envelope.

In addition, the letter states the Bureau independently verified that the township’s Qualified Voter File (QVF) shows ballots sent to voters on the permanent absentee voter application list with no application received from the voter, adding that the bureau was “unable to verify [her] method of processing returned absent voter ballot envelopes at this time.”

Because of these violations, the Bureau directed Wells to “refrain from any election administration activities” for elections “until further notice,” including performing voter registration and routine list maintenance, ordering election supplies and ballots, processing absentee voter ballot applications, issuing absentee voter ballots, preparing polling locations, recruiting, assigning and training election inspectors, membership on the election commission, her role in logic and accuracy testing, addressing election day issues, and compiling unofficial results and doing a post-election canvass.

An investigation by the Michigan Bureau of Elections into the reports is ongoing at this time.

St. Joseph County Clerk Lindsay Oswald confirmed that a representative from the clerk’s office was in Burr Oak Township Tuesday to administer the election in Wells’ place, and that the absentee ballots that were submitted have been counted.

Wells did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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