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A toilet and a sign: Statement or not, it may be illegal, Ingham County clerk contends

A toilet and a sign: Statement or not, it may be illegal, Ingham County clerk contends

by Ken Palmer | Lansing State Journal  |  Published on September 21, 2020

MASON – A toilet perched on a front lawn, accompanied by a sign saying, “Place Mail In Ballots Here,” might be construed as a political statement of sorts.

However you interpret it, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said, it might be illegal.

“It’s solicitation of absentee ballots into a container,” Byrum said Friday evening. “Our election integrity is not a game. I expect everyone to act appropriately, and this is unacceptable.”

Byrum issued a statement with a photo of the display in Mason, saying she filed a police report about it with dispatchers on Monday.

Mason police contacted her on Wednesday and promised to call her after they’d spoken with the homeowner, she said.

Under Michigan election law, illegally taking possession of an absentee ballot is a felony punishable a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $1,000 fine, Byrum said. The statute language can be found here.

The display is set up in the front yard of a home on West Columbia Street near Mechanic Street. A “Recall Whitmer” sign and a John James election sign are posted in the same yard. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a Democrat and James is a Republican running for the U.S. Senate.

No one was home when a State Journal photographer knocked on the door at the house on Friday evening.

In her statement, Byrum, a Democrat, said she found it “more than a little ironic” that the person registered at the address has voted absentee for the past three years. That type of information is publicly available, she said.

She also said she worries that President Donald Trump “is encouraging people to lose faith in the absentee voting process …”

In a telephone interview, Byrum noted that local clerks have received their initial shipment of absentee ballots, meaning it’s possible someone might have received their ballot and could put it into the front-yard receptacle.

“This kind of behavior needs to be quashed immediately,” she said. “They are making a mockery of our elections. I’m not going to stand idly by and watch it happen.”

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