|ELECTION INTEGRITY IN OUR COUNTY AND IN THE STATE
June 25, 2022
Over the last several years (and recently), I have been asked questions about the integrity of our elections. As Presiding Commissioner of our county, I thought it important to determine this for myself so that I could answer these questions. I can't speak for other election processes, particularly in other states in which their laws can be different than in Missouri, but I can relate what I learned about our processes in Livingston County and why I believe these processes ensure that our local elections are honest and accurate. Following are what I believe are important points about our election process:
VOTING MACHINES ARE NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET: Therefore, the machines cannot be compromised by some internet malware.
VOTING MACHINES ARE TESTED PRIOR TO EACH ELECTION: Candidates for each election are invited to attend a testing of the machines in which test ballots are run through and compared with machine counts.
RESULTS ARE TESTED AFTER EACH ACTUAL ELECTION: Members from each party together select a random ward or precinct to hand count the paper ballots and compare them with the machine count of that ward or precinct.
PAPER BALLOTS SERVE AS A BACKUP IN CASE THERE WAS EVER ANY TYPE OF PROBLEM: The paper ballots are always available to confirm machine counts.
VOTERS REQUESTING AN ABSENTEE BALLOT ARE VERIFIED BEFORE BALLOTS ARE SENT OUT: Voters are confirmed by identification and signature. Current Missouri law requires an absentee voter to certify that they are unable to go to the polls on Election Day to vote. A new law that has been passed but not signed by the Governor yet would allow no excuse absentee voting two weeks prior to an election. If signed, this goes into effect in the November election.
AT THE POLLS VOTERS MUST PROVE THEIR IDENTITY BY IDENTIFICATION AND SIGNATURE: The new election law which if signed by the Governor would require a photo ID for identification rather than other types of identification beginning in November.
The question has been asked, should we do away with machines? As mentioned above, with the process and safeguards we have and because all votes are cast on a paper ballot, in my opinion, there is no reason to consider that option. Additionally, doing away with machines would not be legal because ADA equipment is required by state law. Furthermore, the election process would be much slower than necessary; and, again in my opinion, more likely for error from the human error of counting substantial numbers of ballots. Finally, it was determined many years ago that fraud is more likely to occur with the hand count process which resulted in election equipment being implemented. Our County Clerk, Sherry Parks, is on several state committees, and she has collaborated closely with the Secretary of State and other county clerks to make recommendations for improvements to the State Election laws. This input is one of the reasons the new photo identification has been approved by the legislature and on the Governor's desk for signature, which, if signed as expected, will go into law this November. I think this addition is good because it further tightens the election process in Missouri.
I personally think the state laws in Missouri make our election process in our State one of the best in the nation. Several states do not require the voter to request an absentee ballot and verifying the identity of those requests as is done in Missouri but instead mail out ballots to all registered voters. Also, several states allow what is called ballot harvesting in which someone can pick up the ballots of others. In my opinion, both of these procedures used in some other states can undermine the integrity of an election. But again, in Missouri, mailing to all registered voters and ballot harvesting are not allowed under current law.
I think that Missouri election laws are good; and, in our county, I am convinced that our processes and controls ensure the integrity of our elections.SCHOOL SAFETY
JUNE, 2022 (Published 06/13/2022)
Following the recent school shooting in Texas, there is a heightened awareness of doing everything we can to protect our children. We recently had a regularly scheduled meeting between the City and the County regarding 9-1-1 Emergency Management. Prior to that meeting, I contacted Mayor Theresa Kelly and City Administrator Roze Frampton and asked their thoughts on having our 9-1-1 meeting focus on school safety. They both agreed that this was timely and important. The members of our 9-1-1 meeting that regularly attend are Mayor Theresa Kelly, City Administrator Roze Frampton, our County Commission which includes me as Presiding Commissioner, our Western District Commissioner Dave Mapel, Eastern District Commissioner Alvin Thompson, Chief of Police Jon Maples, 9-1-1 Coordinator Cindy Hanavan, Sheriff Steve Cox, Deputy Sheriff Michael Claypole, Sheriff's Department Office Manager Sindy Thomas, and Fire Chief Eric Reeter. In addition to these regular members, we invited County Clerk Sherry Parks, school resource officer Mike Lewis, and the superintendents from our four local county schools: Chillicothe R2 - Dan Wiebers, Bishop Hogan - Pam Brobst, Chula - Melissa Young and Southwest - Bernie Schneiderheinze.
A significant portion of our meeting related to discussing the many components of the Texas shooting that were not managed properly - from unlocked doors to law enforcement waiting outside, to dispatch calls not being received by law enforcement. Each area represented was able to respond as to what should happen if we were in that circumstance. Mike Lewis, the Public-School Resource Officer, is very knowledgeable on best practices and training and offered a great deal of valuable insight. One very significant point is that our police and sheriff department unequivocally stated that in a scenario like the Texas shooting they would immediately be breaking into the classroom to take out the shooter. This is the current understanding of best practice in that type of a situation. (An interesting side note to this is that we had a serious disturbance at the courthouse just the other day in which emergency buttons were activated and both the police and sheriff's department had multiple officers arrive within only a minute or two to manage the disturbance. The reaction time and response were very impressive and are certainly one of the reasons we are extremely fortunate to have our current law enforcement staff).
Other topics included every school having one entrance and the rest of the exits locked. We also discussed the importance of the front desk person who buzzes in a person visiting the school and continued teacher and student training on procedures. Electronic card systems for entry and additional cameras were also mentioned by one of the school districts. The Sheriff's department expressed their desire to increase their visits to the schools outside the city limits: Chula and Southwest. Additional potential protection on doors and windows was also discussed and each school district is going to try to examine what could be done in this area and the potential cost for our further review. Mike Lewis has agreed to assist the other schools in the county with information on request that can assist them in determining their needs.
In summary, I think the discussion from all the parties was productive and hopefully prepares us better to prevent a shooting in our City and County. Unfortunately, I am afraid no system or set of procedures is ever fool proof; but the intent is to be diligent in doing everything we can to protect our kids. I want to thank all the members of the committee and invited guests who participated in this discussion.
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