When Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler found that 32 counties, 83 cities and 426 townships lack fully accredited clerks, shock waves set in. In a nutshell, the audit showed more than 500 local units of government in Michigan do not have clerks who are fully accredited to run an election. And the year 2020 is going to be a robust election year.

The finding, part of an audit of the Bureau of Elections at the Michigan Secretary of State, raises questions about Michigan’s election readiness heading into 2020.

Michigan election law requires local clerks to participate in accreditation courses and complete continuing education at least once every two years to maintain accreditation.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the auditor found many counties, cities and townships lack a clerk with that up-to-date accreditation. The auditor also checked to see whether any other election official was fully accredited and found 12 counties, 38 cities and 290 townships where no election official had full accreditation.

“We recommend that (the bureau) improve its process to promote accreditation to help ensure that local election officials are fully trained and updated on Michigan’s election process,” the report said.

Several clerks pushed back against the contents of the audit.

Dana Hughes, the city clerk in Ecorse, said the information in the audit is incorrect. Hughes noted that both her and her deputy were accredited in 2014 and since have remained compliant with required updates every two years.

The audit is a snapshot in time, based on records in May of 2019, and it’s possible some local clerks and other election officials have received full accreditation since the report was released.

The auditor called on the Bureau of Elections to assign more training and give clerks additional notifications of their statutory training requirements. The audit also recommended that the bureau find a better way to keep each clerk and election official informed of their current accreditation status.

The audit said the bureau prepares a wide range of training materials and makes them available to local clerks in a variety of ways.

The audit no doubt was surprising in some respects to the clerks and the Bureau of Elections as a whole, but regardless of the finger-pointing, the audit should serve as a warning sign that major preparation work needs to be done before the year’s election schedule comes around. Election officials across the state need to make sure they are well-prepared for this year’s elections.