Bipartisan Michigan clerk coalition files brief supporting charges for ‘rogue’ election worker • Michigan Advance (2024)

A bipartisan coalition of 28 Michigan election officials have urged the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse a decision that dismissed election fraud charges against an election inspector who allegedly used a flash drive to access a voting machine.

The clerks, working in conjunction with the Public Rights Project (PRP), a nonpartisan legal advocacy organization, filed an amicus brief Monday in the appeal of an April decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals that James Holkeboer should not face trial on charges of falsifying election records and using a computer to commit a crime.

“Local and county clerks do their level best to hire engaged and honest precinct workers to staff our elections,” said Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, a Democrat. “We must be more careful now than ever because there is an effort to insert disruptors into the process. We must hold them accountable when their actions compromise the safety and security of our elections, as we are hoping the Michigan Supreme Court will do in this case.”

Holkeboer was charged in 2022 after officials accused him of inserting a USB drive into a computer containing confidential voter registration during the August primary election that year in Kent County’s Gaines Township. A witness spotted Holkeboer inserting the device into the Electronic Poll Book, the computer used to administer elections, which contains voter registration data.

In April, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that because Holkeboer’s insertion of the USB drive only copied the voter list, but did not affect the integrity of either the document or the election, his bind over to circuit court for trial was improper and should be rejected.

In its brief supporting the decision to seek an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, the clerks outlined key reasons why they believe the appeals court decision should be reversed, including that it “would undermine election security, voter privacy, and public confidence in elections,” as “information extracted from electronic poll books may include non-public voter information (like driver’s license numbers and the last four digits of social security numbers), and any voter information that is extracted may be misused to damage public trust in the election system.”

Public Rights Project’s Chief Program Officer Jonathan Miller said that because election integrity is already under a microscope, the public has to be able to trust those who have been given access to their private voter information.

“While most election inspectors operate in good faith, we must hold actors who abuse their access accountable. Eliminating criminal penalties risks undermining election security, voter privacy, and public confidence in Michigan elections,” said Miller.

“Our elections are too important to leave ambiguous what should be a clear line of what is improper for an election worker to do while under oath,” added Hillsdale County Election Director Abe Dane, one of the members of the coalition.

Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum, a Democrat who’s also a coalition member, noted the scale of the election workforce makes it imperative that there be clear rules and guidelines that everyone must follow.

“In November 2022, we had around 1,700 poll workers just in this county, and with the implementation of early voting, we will need even more this year,” he said. “With a group that large, it is possible to have a few misbehaving bad apples. Managing those situations is much harder if there are no consequences for deliberate interference with the conduct of an election.”

The coalition of clerks joining the brief

  • Maureen Brinker, Brownstown Township Clerk
  • Carol Bronzyk, Dickinson County Clerk
  • Lisa Brown, Oakland County Clerk
  • Barb Byrum, Ingham County Clerk
  • Mary R. Clark, Delta Township Clerk
  • Domonique Clemons, Genesee County Clerk
  • Tracey Cochran, Osceola County Clerk
  • Ellen Craig-Bragg, Romulus City Clerk
  • Abraham Dane, Hillsdale County Chief Deputy Clerk/Elections Director
  • Aileen Dickson, Troy City Clerk
  • Jodi Fetting, Tuscola County Clerk
  • Cathy M. Garrett, Wayne County Clerk
  • Vanessa Guerra, Saginaw County Clerk
  • Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk
  • Lawrence Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County Clerk
  • Lisa Lawitzke, Bellevue Township Clerk
  • Richard LeBlanc, Westland City Clerk
  • Ann Manary, Midland County Clerk
  • Kristen Millard, Montcalm County Clerk
  • Cheryl Neilsen, Montmorency County Clerk
  • Annamarie Osment, Monroe County Clerk/Register
  • Patti Pacola, Lake County Clerk
  • Tina Porzondek, Plainfield Township Deputy Clerk/Election Administrator
  • Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County Clerk
  • Bonnie Scheele, Grand Traverse County Clerk
  • Michael Siegrist, Canton Township Clerk
  • Lawrence Stec, Wyandotte City Clerk
  • Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk
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Bipartisan Michigan clerk coalition files brief supporting charges for ‘rogue’ election worker • Michigan Advance (2024)
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