[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]

The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5691

April 23, 1980


Canvass of election open to public

Precinct board of inspectors of elections

The tabulation of votes and the canvass of the election by the precinct board of inspectors must be open to members of the public.

Honorable Ralph Ostling

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested an opinion concerning the procedures for tabulating votes following an election. You have stated your question as follows:

'Shall the exercise of tabulating of votes by election workers (not the board of canvassers) following the closing of the polls of a primary, special or general election be open to the public?'

The answer to your question is contained in the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, Sec. 801; MCLA 168.801; MSA 6.1801, which provides as follows:

'Immediately on closing the polls, the board of inspectors of election in each precinct shall proceed to canvass the vote. Such canvass shall commence by a comparison of the poll lists and a correction of any mistakes that may be found therein until they shall be found or made to agree. Such canvass shall be public and the doors to the polling places and at least I door in the building housing the polling places and giving ready access to them shall not be locked during such canvass.'

(emphasis added)

In addition, Sec. 1 of 1967 PA 155 amended 1954 PA 116, supra, by adding Sec. 798a thereto. This section made provisions for public observation of the counting of votes by automatic tabulating equipment whenever an electronic voting system was used. The section provides in pertinent part:

'Proceedings at the counting center shall be under the direction of the clerk or persons designated by him. They shall be conducted under observation by the public but no persons except those authorized for the purpose shall touch any ballot or return. . . .'

MCLA 168.798a; MSA 6.1798(1)

It is readily apparent that the legislative intent of the aforementioned statutes was to provide that the tallying and canvassing of votes was to be conducted in such a manner as to allow public attendance and observation. The primary rule of statutory construction is, of course, to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent. Dussia v Monroe County Employees Retirement System, 386 Mich 244; 191 NW2d 307 (1971). However, another commonly accepted rule of statutory construction is that no interpretation is necessary if a bare reading of the statute will suffice and if the language employed in a statute is plain, certain and unambiguous, Grand Rapids v Crocker, 219 Mich 178; 188 NW 221 (1922).

It is, therefore, my opinion that members of the public are entitled to observe the tabulation of votes and the canvass of the election by precinct board of inspectors of election after the polls close.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]