Nearly 100 poll books in Detroit missing for several days, documents show

Local election officials in Detroit waited several days to deliver almost 100 poll books to county officials to certify the presidential election, according to newly released documents that come as the state has ordered an audit of the city's voting precincts.

Wayne County Clerk officials released a memo Thursday obtained by The Detroit News to State Elections Director Chris Thomas that said 95 poll books from the 662 precincts weren’t available at the start of the canvass, which began the day after the election.

Of those 95 poll books, five were never delivered to county canvassers and presumably remain missing, according to the memo. The poll books contain the names of voters and are used to ensure integrity of elections by canvassers, who compared the books with printouts from voting machines to make sure the number of people signed in to vote match the number on the machine for total ballots cast.

“I’m not happy with how Detroit handled this election at all,” Krista Hartounian, chairwoman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, told The Detroit News.

“We had been seeing improvement, but this one was different. This one was off.”

Hartounian, whose agency certifies the election, said Detroit officials were still delivering poll books to canvassers on the Friday and Saturday after the Tuesday election.

“The canvass was extremely pressed for time,” she told the newspaper. “There was so much pressure. It was so tight, and Detroit was still delivering information until the very end.”

Canvassers by law have 14 days to certify general elections.

Last Monday, Michigan's elections bureau ordered an investigation into substantial ballot discrepancies in a small portion of Detroit's voting precincts, after the discovery of a polling place where 300 people voted but only 50 ballots were properly sealed in a container.

Since learning of the issue during the state's presidential recount, officials have learned of similar "significant mismatch" problems at roughly 20 of Detroit's 490 precincts, according to Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. He said there is no reason to think votes were not counted and the differences would not have affected Republican Donald Trump's narrow victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the state. Clinton won 95 percent of Detroit's vote.

Detroit elections officials told the state that in the one precinct, the 250 missing ballots were left in the tabulator bin, "but we want to verify this," Woodhams said. It was not immediately clear what caused the inconsistencies in other precincts.

Clinton cut into Trump's 10,704-vote win by only 102 votes during Michigan's election recount, which was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and which covered more than 40 percent of the statewide vote before courts stopped it.

The ballots in question will be taken to the state capital, Lansing, for review. The investigation will take about three weeks.

Roughly 2 million of Michigan's 4.8 million ballots were recounted by hand, including about two-thirds of those in the suburban Detroit suburb of Oakland County and one-third of Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

"We do have a very accurate system that people should have confidence in," Woodhams said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.