Special News Update - "Emily FOIA Request"

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August 27, 2018

"Emily FOIA Request"

The Bureau of Elections has received numerous questions in regards to the "Emily FOIA request".  We understand that this request is quite daunting, and we want to clarify what we can with regard to Michigan Election Law.  However, beyond election law, it is still very important that you work with your local legal counsel and FOIA coordinator, to properly comply with this request.   

  • Review the Attorney General’s Michigan Freedom of Information Act pamphlet.    
  • FOIA affords local jurisdictions the option to ask for an extension of time (see page 6 of the AG pamphlet).
  • FOIA also allows the local jurisdiction to prepare a fee estimate and ask for a deposit of up to 50% of the fee up front (see page 7 of the AG pamphlet) before making any copies. Preparing a fee estimate is highly recommended.
  • The fee estimate should include all work that is required to ensure the security and proper handling of ballots in order to make copies.
  • If a deposit is received, please make a copy of the check and email it to MDOS-ElectionsFOIA@michigan.gov.
  • Do not lose sight that preparations for the November election must come before all else.  Communicate with the requester the amount of time it will take to complete the request given all of the other duties that must be performed during this time. 

Final reminders regarding the 22-month retention period and the chain of custody memo.  Please note: 

  • The 22-month period is up on September 28, 2018 – 22 months after the certification of the November 2016 election. 
  • If a FOIA request for the ballots has been received before that date, ballots may not be destroyed until after the request is fulfilled.
  • Original voted ballots may not be turned over to the requestor (or anyone else) once the retention period has run out.  The original ballots must be destroyed after the request has been fulfilled and the retention period has expired.
  • A 3rd party may make copies after the retention period has elapsed, but local clerks must  maintain control of the ballots – i.e., ballots may not be turned over to another offsite party.  Local clerks are required to supervise the process to ensure no changes are made to the ballots during copying.  

The Detroit News (and other sources) have potentially uncovered the origin of this request.

We appreciate all of the collaboration between clerks and the assistance you provide each other in order to comply and prepare for an uncommon request.  We have a great clerk community in Michigan!