Advance Notice: Briefs

SOS: Trump’s tweets about ballot glitch ‘false and misleading’

By: - September 17, 2020 5:21 pm

President Donald J. Trump, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office on Thursday said a “partial programmer error, partial computer glitch” is how more than 400 ballots meant for military and overseas voters were printed with the wrong running mate for President Donald Trump, countering a tweet from Trump himself that accused Benson of purposely misprinting them. 

The erroneous ballots listed Libertarian vice presidential nominee Jeremy Cohen as Trump’s running mate instead of Vice President Mike Pence, the Detroit News reported Tuesday. Cohen is Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgenson’s running mate.

Ballots are downloaded from the state and sent by election clerks to overseas eligible voters at their asking, in accordance with the Military and Overseas Empowerment (MOVE) Act. 

“We do not know how many of these ballots were sent to voters, but clerks were instructed to immediately alert voters of the error and send a corrected ballot,” the Michigan Department of State tweeted Tuesday. 

The president attacked Benson in a Thursday tweet, referring to her as the “Democrat Trump Hater Secretary of State of Michigan” and wrote — with no substantiation — that she purposely put the wrong name on the ballots.

Benson immediately rejected the claims.

“Once again you’re wrong. This was an unintended computer glitch that was caught & quickly corrected,” Benson wrote back. “Suggesting otherwise is false & misleading. Impacted voters immediately received an accurate ballot & guidance to ensure their vote counts. And my name, again, is Jocelyn Benson.”

It’s not the first time Trump has criticized Benson — he did so back in May, when Benson sent Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters mail-in ballot applications using federal coronavirus funding.

Trump’s tweet is inaccurate, said Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State.

“As we have explained, the incident was a result of a programmer error and a computer glitch that was caught within 90 minutes. Any clerks who downloaded the errored ballot were immediately notified and told how to remedy the situation,” Rollow said in a statement. “Any voters who may have received an incorrect ballot will receive a correct ballot and their vote will count. In the case that a voter returns both the incorrect and the corrected ballot, only the corrected ballot will be counted.”

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.