Miscounted precinct alters results of Flushing Township Trustee race

FLUSHING TWP. — A miscounted precinct during the Nov. 3 election and subsequent review of ballots has flipped the fourth and fifth place finishers in the Flushing Township Trustee race, altering the make-up of the township board heading into 2021.

On Nov. 3, five candidates vied for four Flushing Township Trustee seats, including incumbent trustees Linda Minarik (R), Sharilynn Willette (R), William Westenbarger (R) and Jenifer Almassy (D), and challenger Bill Bain (R). As initially reported by Genesee County’s Election Division on Nov. 4, Minarik (4,187 votes), Willette (4,122 votes) and Bain (4,056 votes) had earned the three highest vote totals, followed by Almassy and Westenbarger.

Although unofficial results showed Almassy (3,910 votes) leading Westenbarger (3,867 votes) by only 43 votes for fourth place, the county’s Board of Canvassers found that a Flushing Township precinct was accidentally double counted by the county after it had received results from Flushing Township. As stated by Flushing Township Clerk Wendy Meinburg, this caused a fluctuation of vote totals in the trustee race and led to inaccurate results.

Following a review of ballots by the Board of Canvassers, Westenbarger ended up finishing fourth to retain his seat with 3,349 votes, edging out Almassy’s 3,167 votes. Minarik still received the most votes with 3,615, followed by Willette in second place with 3,556 votes and Bain in third place with 3,521 votes.

According to Meinburg, the issue began on Election Day after one of her precinct chairs reported that a miscount had occurred on an absentee counting board.

“As soon as the precinct chair knew that there was an issue, they contacted me and I, in turn, contacted the county,” she said. “The miscount was human error and happened late in the polling night.”

On advisement from county election officials, Meinburg and her staff completed a recount of the precinct’s ballots before turning all results over to the county.

“Every election is slightly different and there’s always a learning curve,” she said. “Fortunately, we were able to get identify the problem and correct it quickly. All of our numbers were balanced by the end of the night.”

But after Flushing Township votes were submitted to the county, Meinburg said that the county’s tabulation machine merged results from the precinct where the recount took place—counting the vote totals from before and after the recount.

The day after the election, Meinburg contacted Flushing Township trustee candidates and explained that the county’s unofficial vote totals were not accurate in their respective race.

Ten days later, the county Board of Canvassers made its final adjustments and corrected Flushing Township’s vote totals. All votes were then certified by the county on Nov. 17 and by the state on Nov. 23.

Westenbarger, Bain, Minarik and Willette were sworn into office on Nov. 19 and were present for the online township board meeting on Dec. 10.