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No recount of Sylvan millage vote due to incorrectly sealed ballot bags

Sylvan Township Hall

A recount of the Aug. 8 Sylvan Township 4.4 mill tax levy, which was approved by seven votes, did not take place Tuesday, Sept. 4, when it was determined by the Board of Canvassers that the ballot bags were incorrectly sealed.

The recount was requested by township resident Janice Carr, who paid the $10 for it to take place.

Ed Golembiewski, director of elections for the county said, “Sylvan Township wasn’t the only one (municipality)” to have its ballot bags incorrectly sealed. Precincts in other municipalities, such as Augusta Township, were also not sealed properly and these precincts were also not recounted.

He said after a call to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the Board of Canvassers determined that because of a 2-inch gap between the zippers, the bags had not been sealed properly and the recount could not take place.

He said that the ballot bags must be sealed so that there are no gaps, and that it is the election workers who seal the bags and take them to the clerk.

“The original results stand,” he said.

Courtesy photo.

Some township ballot bags have an inner bag inside of them, but Sylvan Township Clerk LuAnn Koch said the township’s bags did not.

She addressed the situation with a written statement at Tuesday night’s Township Board meeting.

On Sept. 4, she read a prepared statement that said, “Today, the Washtenaw County Board of Canvassers held a recount for the Sylvan Township millage proposal. The Board of Canvassers determined that the ballot bags were not sealed properly, therefore the millage proposal was not recountable.

“All seal numbers matched those recorded in the poll book, all votes tabulated matched the number of voters recorded in the poll book,” she said, adding that at an election certification training held on July 16, 2012 conducted by the Washtenaw County Elections Division, attended by myself and the election workers, there was no demonstration on sealing ballot bags.”

She said that the election workers have been sealing the ballot bags in this same manner for at least eight years with no notification of change from the county or the state.

“All bags are State of Michigan approved,” she said. “All seals are provided by Washtenaw County and are state approved.”

She also stated that there were several other precincts in Washtenaw County that were also “determined unrecountable due to the method of sealing the ballot bags.”

So what this means is unless township residents seek an immediate court injunction, the millage vote stands as passed by residents, 480-473 votes.

And although several township residents said previously that they did not expect any change in the count, because of the discord throughout the township regarding the issue, they felt it was important to put the issue to rest with a recount and move forward.

Five township residents attended the board of canvassers recount Tuesday.

Several of them also questioned the 2013 date in the millage proposal, asking if it was a mistake that everyone had missed. The tax levy is expected to be placed on the winter tax bill that goes out in 2012, but is payable in 2013.

Residents will pay 4.4 mills during a 20-year period to repay about $12 million in bond payments for a sewer and water system that most of them can’t use and about $1.2 million that’s owed to the Washtenaw County treasurer for money advanced to the township for water and sewer special assessment installments that were voided by a court judgment.

Home owners will pay $440 for a home with a taxable value of $100,000.

Here’s what was approved by voters: “Shall the limitation upon the total amount of general ad valorem taxes imposed upon real and tangible personal property for all purposes in any one year under the Michigan Constitution be increased in the Township of Sylvan, Washtenaw County, Michigan, by 4.40 mills (which is equal to $4.40 per $1,000 of taxable value of all such property) for a period of twenty (20) years, 2013 through 2032, inclusive, for the purpose of paying the Township’s $9,775,000.00 obligation to Washtenaw County and $1,213,000.00 to the Washtenaw County Treasurer? The amount of revenue the Township will collect if that millage is approved and levied by the Township in the first year is estimated to be $780,263.90. The proposed millage is a new additional millage, the revenue from which would be disbursed to the County of Washtenaw.”

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