Coordinated effort to clog state elections hotline slows down canvassing process for clerks

Vote processing in Detroit's TCF Center | Ken Coleman photo

The Bureau of Elections (BOE) hotline that clerks depend on has been bombarded with crank calls, making it nearly impossible for clerks to get a hold of the state office for guidance.

The Election Liaison Section Line, a number reserved for election clerks, has been “called constantly by what appears to be more than one group” since Wednesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spokesperson Aneta Kiersnowski said. 

Kiersnowski said Benson’s office does not know what groups are involved in the coordinated effort to clog the hotline. 

The BOE sent out a notice to clerks Monday alerting them of the issue and asked that they do not try to reach the election specialists by phone, and instead use other channels, like email.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says this issue has slowed down the canvassing process for Ingham County.

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“Our phone lines to the elections department at the state of Michigan are jammed up, clerks are just coming off an extraordinarily contentious, high voter turnout, very stressful election. And now we’re being faced with conspiracy theories and the inability to contact the Bureau for guidance in the middle of a pandemic,” Byrum said. “There are a lot of things going on and election administrators want to conduct their elections.”

On the local and county level, clerks have already been struggling to manage calls about conspiracy theories about the election, Byrum said. 

Even though media outlets have called the election for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden over President Trump, conspiracies have been circulated widely in right-wing and social media. 

Although the myths have been debunked, the current process that clerks are trying to get through right now is canvassing and certifying the election to make sure that there were no issues. 

“That’s what the canvas is, by the way. That’s why there’s two Republicans and two Democrats, at a minimum, that go through the election to canvas and certify the election, but clerks are being bombarded with all these contacts about conspiracy theories,” Byrum said. “We really just need to be able to have a good line of communication, a reliable line of communication with the BOE, and whoever is playing the game needs to stop.”

Allison Donahue
Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.