State canvassers approve upgrade to Dominion voting systems

By: - May 19, 2023 2:50 pm

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The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Friday approved certifying an upgrade to the voting machines used across most of the state.

The board met in Lansing for its monthly session with only two items on the agenda. The first was the certification of an upgrade to the Dominion Voting System tabulators used by 65 of Michigan’s 83 counties, while the second was to consider a petition to form a new political party submitted by the Michigan Common Sense Party.

The latter was dropped from the agenda at the request of organizers who said there were some typos discovered by Bureau of Elections (BOE) staff too late to get changed and verified in advance of the meeting. It’s expected they will resubmit for June’s meeting.

As to the Dominion upgrade, Michigan Director of Elections Jonathan Brater, appearing remotely, provided an overview for the bipartisan panel of the proposed upgrade to the Dominion Democracy Suite 5.17 voting system that he said would provide several improvements in usability, functionality, technology and security.

Michigan Director of Elections Jonathan Brater speaks during the Board of State Canvassers meeting on May 19, 2023. | Screenshot

“The vendor has to go to a voting system test laboratory that has been certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and has been approved by the Election Assistance Commission to conduct thorough testing of all the components of the voting system,” he said. “After that testing is complete, the vendor then needs to get approval from the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission and have that equipment certified at the federal level, which technically is not necessary for state use, but it’s something that we obviously look at when we’re recommending something to use.”

Brater said the upgrade had gone through that process prior to the BOE’s security and standards team spending two days with representatives from Dominion Voting Systems, as well as several individuals from county and municipal clerks offices in Michigan. They went over the major components of the system, which he said fell into four categories; the election management system, or “brains of the system;” the tabulators that actually accept and scan the paper ballots; the high-speed scanner used in larger jurisdictions; and the ImageCast X, equipment mainly used by voters with disabilities as it has accessibility features.

Brater says the BOE tested all four of those components using test data and ballots from past elections and found they met all of the necessary requirements while providing enhanced speed, accessibility and security features.

Brater also noted that the upgraded Dominion tabulators will not have internet modems, which in the past were used exclusively after the polls had closed to send unofficial results to county clerks’ offices. He took great care to point out that actual results have always been reviewed by the county canvassing boards before they are certified and that the paper ballots are always retained for verification if needed.

That emphasis was related to the false claims surrounding Dominion systems that were pushed by Republicans in Michigan and nationwide who baselessly claimed voting equipment in the 2020 election was “rigged” against former President Donald Trump. Much of that was based on preliminary Antrim County election results that briefly showed President Joe Biden winning due to human error, although the mistake was quickly corrected and the results confirmed by a subsequent hand recount.

Those same theories were also at the center of a recent $787 million settlement by Dominion in its lawsuit against Fox News for its role in spreading the falsehoods.

Brater said overall the upgrade would result in a more modern system that would provide better service and reliability for jurisdictions and their voters.

Questioned when the upgrade would be completed, Brater told the board that it was unlikely all of the 65 Michigan counties that use Dominion systems would have it completed by this August. 

“I believe the goal, however, is to make sure that everything is upgraded before the presidential primary in 2024,” he said, adding that it was possible to have counties using different versions in the same election. 

“We try to avoid it, but there’s no real problem with it,” said Brater.

Following questions from the board, members voted unanimously to certify the upgrade.


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell.