Handwriting experts see differences in Detroit absentee ballots from August
September 23, 2013
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers will continue going through challenged ballots today with hopes to wrap up a recount of the City of Detroit’s election before the week is out.
At Monday’s board meeting, the findings of a handwriting expert hired by the board to examine ballots from the election was shared with the public. The expert, who was hired to check for similarity in handwriting, reportedly found “significant differences” in the writings examined, according to the board’s chairwoman.
At least one challenger has said that some absentee ballots appear to have been been filled in by the same person.
The expert, Robert D. Coleman with East Lansing consulting firm Speckin Forensic Laboratories, also said in his report to the board, dated Sunday, that he examined the writing for naturalness, formation of the words, pen lifts from the ballots and how hard the pen was pressed to paper when writing the response, among other things, said Chairwoman Carol Larkin.
“My microscopic examinations of handwriting features of each entry on each of the 19 ballots and my side-by-side comparisons of like letters and letter conbinations between the 19 ballots revealed … there are a number of significant differences between the 19 ballots,” Larkin read from Coleman to the board.
Challengers to the handwriting, including former mayoral candidate Tom Barrow, argued that part of the problem with the handwriting samples was that ballots from different precincts were not able to be compared to each other.
“You’re dismissing the things we’re pointing to,” Barrow said. “There’s a number of people who were writing these things across the city.”
The examination of challenged ballots is expected to finish at today’s meeting. Larkin said she hopes the board will be able to certify the election at its Thursday meeting.
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers began a hand count of a sampling of Detroit votes at Cobo Center last week, initiated to investigate an allegation of fraud in the Detroit election. The hand count was stopped after the board determined ballots were not in numerical order.
The board opened several boxes of ballots last week — three containing general ballots and two containing absentee ballots — as part of its investigation into an allegation of fraud claimed by Barrow. Barrow and several other candidates filed petitions with the Wayne County Board of Canvassers alleging, among other things, that the number of applications for absentee ballots was lower than the number of absentee votes cast, and that similar handwriting appears on several ballots cast for former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, who will face Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in November’s general election.
Barrow and others contend the handwriting samples given to an expert were never compared to other ballots from different precincts, and challengers were only shown 10 ballots at a time during the recount, meaning few similarities could be found.
They never got around to resuming that count Monday. Instead they laid out dozens of ballots on several tables to compare handwriting again — this time using a larger sampling than the 10 ballots shown during the vote recount that wrapped up Saturday after 12 days.
D. Etta Wilcoxon, a candidate for city clerk, told the board that she objected to the fact that City Clerk Janice Winfrey never gave canvassers ballot manifests showing how many ballots were ordered and how many existed, giving way to chaos in the process.
“We don’t know how many ballots the clerk ordered,” Wilcoxon told the board. “The facts are not being carefully considered by this board.”