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Unlocked Ballot Box Video Shared By MI GOP Being Investigated As Election Misinformation

A video shared by the Michigan GOP is being referred to the Attorney General for investigation as "election misinformation" after claims of an unlocked ballot box were debunked by the City Clerk and Secretary of State.
Scott Pohl
A video shared by the Michigan GOP is being referred to the Attorney General for investigation as "election misinformation" after claims of an unlocked ballot box were debunked by the City Clerk and Secretary of State.

The Lansing City Clerk said a video shared by the Michigan Republican Party showing an unlocked ballot box is from before absentee ballots were mailed out to the public. Both the clerk and the Secretary of State called it misinformation. 

A ballot box outside Lansing City Hall was found unlocked on Thursday afternoon. According to the Lansing City Clerk, Chris Swope the box in question was emptied at 10:45 on Thursday morning and was found unlocked three hours later. Swope says he’s very disappointed to have an issue with an election drop box. 

A video released Wednesday on social media by the Michigan Republican Party shows a man opening up a ballot box outside the Foster Community Center with a white envelope inside of it. 

In an accompanying press release Laura Cox, the Michigan Republican Party Chairman, said the video was taken by a concerned citizen on September 25. 

"The video exposed an envelope in the unlocked drop box that could have possibly been a ballot based on the video's date of filming," she said. "Lansing voters were given the impression that dropboxes were a secure place where their documents would be safeguarded. The video released shows that the box, was in fact, unlocked," said Cox.  

But, both the Michigan Secretary of State and Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope were quick to categorize the video as misinformation. Swope said the video in question was taken right after the ballot boxes were installed and before his staff were sent out to secure them. 

At the time the video was taken absentee ballots in Lansing wouldn't have made it to voters. Lansing absentee ballots were mailed on September 24 and were received by voters on the 26, so the piece of mail could not have been a ballot. 

“When my staff went to the drop box they left it secure and have been checking it daily since then," said Swope.

But on Wednesday when his staff went to check on that particular ballot box, his staff noticed the latch on the box was not properly latching but was still locked. 

"When she went to leave, it did not seem like it was securing properly and it seemed like someone has been pulling on that same drop box," he said. "So we are having maintenance to figure out whats going on with it." 

Swope clarified the envelope shown in the video isn't even an absentee ballot. 

“I can tell by the envelope by the color that it is not a ballot," he said. "The ballots are in envelopes that have green markings on both sides that are very visible."

Swope added the boxes are secured with a spring preventing them from being left unlocked if the door is shut. According to Swope all 15 ballot boxes are being carefully monitored by security cameras and checked regularly by sworn election official who carries identification. Voters can also confirm their absentee ballot has been received in Lansing by checking www.LansingVotes.com 

“This is a safe and secure way to vote and anybody who is trying to manipulate the facts to discourage people from voting is not being very patriotic," said Swope. 

He said there is an increase in requested absentee ballots in Lansing this year. Thus far, over 30,000 absentee ballots have been issued in Lansing and more than a third of them have been returned. 

"The COVID pandemic has really increased people's desire to vote at home," said Swope. 

A statement from the Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, called the video and the GOP press release "blatantly false statements" and  accused the Michigan GOP of "irresponsibly spreading misinformation likely intended to supress voting among Michigan citizens."

The video and press release are being referred to the Attorney General for investigation as election misinformation. The Republican Party did not respond for comment. 

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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