Soles to the Rolls to the rescue: How digital canvassing is paving the way to clean voter rolls
Updated: Apr 17
Phani Mantravadi, an information technology engineer, works at dual computer monitors as he perfects the user-friendly menu for Soles to the Rolls.
By Check My Vote (CMV) and Michigan Fair Elections (MFE) | April 14, 2023 Revised April 17
Click here for Volunteer signup for MFE's Soles to the Rolls
Just as clean voter rolls are the heartbeat of election integrity, bloated and inaccurate rolls invite misconduct and abuse. Until now, voter roll information, required by law to be transparent, has been out of reach to most citizens and even to many election clerks. In response, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization has piloted a voter roll cleanup program. Check My Vote (CMV) features user-friendly software and brings publicly available information in the state’s voter rolls to users' fingertips.
A few clicks of the mouse, and residents and election clerks alike can view their own voting histories and the registered voters in their area—at no charge. The secrecy of a person's ballot is protected, of course, but whether the individual voted absentee or in person during past elections is public information.
Check My Vote co-founder Tim Vetter (right) and Dr. Frank discuss Michigan's voter roll data anomalies during Frank's visit to Westland, Michigan on June 28, 2022.
“User feedback is helping us put Michigan on the cutting edge of voter roll truth and accuracy,” said Tim Vetter, co-developer and co-founder of checkmyvote.org.
Over the past several months, Michigan Fair Elections has piloted its Soles to the Rolls program among its statewide network of volunteers. “The county task forces beta-tested checkmyvote.org and provided feedback,” Patrice Johnson, chair of MFE, said. “The result is greater transparency and improved ease of access to Michigan’s voter rolls. Now, we’re pleased to roll out the program statewide.”
“Dirty voter rolls are a national security issue. Every citizen should be concerned,” said Vetter. “It’s a citizen’s right and duty to participate in a fair election process, and Soles to the Rolls is designed to encourage participation, regardless of a person's technology skillset.”
Vetter, a manufacturing equipment engineer by trade, understands the critical value of timely and accurate information. "At work all decisions are data driven," he said. "If my source data is not accurate, my company could waste millions of dollars per hour. It’s better to have no data than to have wrong data."
When asked to describe the importance of accurate election data, Vetter replied, "We citizens have one tool for expressing our voice in this representative government of ours. We have our vote. Asking me the value of my vote is like asking me the value of my freedom."
Vetter invited readers to go to the CMV website and take a look at the dashboard, designed to assist residents and clerks in every election jurisdiction across the state. “I encourage all Michigan citizens to become a part of MFE’s Soles to the Rolls effort. Use the newly developed digital tools for yourself and assist your local, hardworking clerk to clean Michigan’s Qualified Voter File (QVF) and keep it clean.”
“Anyone who opposes checks and balances on our elections might as well try to argue that football games should have no referees," said Phani Mantravadi, co-founder of checkmyvote.org. "Human nature is what it is, so wherever power and money are involved, the temptation to cheat is too great for some. This is why the Founding Fathers of this nation enacted the U.S. Constitution."
The same reasons gave rise to federal transparency laws and compelled state lawmakers to enact laws requiring equal numbers of Democrat and Republican election inspectors at the polls. "Questioning minds help keep everyone honest,” Mantravadi, an information technology engineer, said with a wry grin. He and wife Aldona have three children and are residents of Livingston County.
“With the support of Michigan patriots and our elected clerks, we hope to shut down illegal absentee ballot stuffing operations.” Vetter was referring to "2000 Mules,” a documentary film that showed video security footage of ballot harvesters, called mules, stuffing quantities of ballots into absentee drop boxes nationwide and allegedly rigging the 2020 Presidential Election.
“Every stuffed ballot is required by law to be paired with a voter registration in the Qualified Voter File. This further highlights the importance of clean and accurate voter rolls." Vetter's characteristic smile topped his white-goatee. "We have three girls by marriage with two adopted into our family with eight grandchildren all under the age of five. They are the reason I'm working to defend the integrity of every person's ballot." He and wife Ann of 33 years reside in Oakland County.
To achieve the goal of accurate voter rolls, Vetter says, "CMV [Check Mv Vote] provides the necessary tools for Michiganians, Soles to the Rolls volunteers, and election clerks to support each other in identifying and removing irregularities from our voter rolls.”
In the unlikely event that a registrant is mistakenly removed from the rolls, a Michigan resident need only re-register at their local clerk's office as late as on Election Day.
To take a deep dive into questionable and inaccurate voter registrations, checkmyvote.org users simply click a few menu items.
By Michigan Compiled Law (MCL 168.495 (b)), a voter registration must meet 14 requirements, one of which includes having a complete address. If living in an apartment or mobile home park, registrants must include their apartment or lot number, so the U.S. Postal Service is able to deliver an absentee ballot if requested.
"Statewide the QVF contains over 48,000 voter registrations at trailer park and apartment housing addresses that are missing apartment or lot numbers." Vetter tapped a few keys, and examples populated his computer screen. "This disqualifies these registrations. They are non-legal and need to be completed or eliminated."
“In the past four years--since Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson enrolled the state in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) in 2019--non-legal addresses have spiraled out of control," Vetter noted. "The SOS Benson may claim otherwise, but the facts and data prove our QVF data quality has gotten significantly worse since that time.”
“Inaccurate and non-standard apartment or lot numbers are a serious issue,” Mantravadi added, and he cautioned those who might feel tempted toward wrongdoing. “Volunteers across the state are tracking and monitoring every address in Michigan. We’re watching for spikes and other anomalies.”
Mantravadi encouraged readers to set their video resolution to view at best quality and watch this short video. “You’ll see how easy it is to resolve these unlawful and non-standard address problems." He questioned why Benson would waste taxpayer money on the state's membership in ERIC. "She could simply provide clerks with the basic tools they need to clean the QVF.” Since she has failed to do her job, he said hardworking volunteers are filling the gap.
A snapshot of QVF issues
According to the April 2023 QVF, 592 registered voters are located at the Landmark, a high-rise apartment building at 1300 S. University Avenue in Ann Arbor, Mich. Here the 173 apartments average 3.4 registrations each. Of the 126 legal registrants at this location, 113 (90%) voted. Of the 113 votes, nine had no apartment number. Some voter registrations from this location include non-existent apartment numbers. One registrant is listed as residing in an apartment on the 19th floor of this 14-story building.
"This is the sort of discrepancy our volunteers are working with election clerks to identify and resolve," Johnson said.
Michigan Election Law places complete responsibility with the county, city, and township clerks to verify the accuracy of the names and addresses of registered electors in the QVF. (MCL 168.509r (1))
"When we factor in the myriad ways new voter registrations and voter registration modifications are auto-generated into the QVF, we begin to grasp how data integrity, quality control, and verifications become a monumental challenge for the clerk’s office," Vetter said.
Mission of Soles to the Rolls
By law, the local jurisdiction clerk has the authority to use any “other means the clerk considers appropriate” to accomplish the cleanup of our voter rolls (Section 168.509dd). By ensuring the integrity of the voter rolls, volunteers can confirm that active registrations and ballots belong to actual living persons at the addresses of record. This is the goal behind MFE’s Soles to the Rolls program and its new Check My Vote.org (CMV) website.
"Our goal is simple. We are helping to clean Michigan’s QVF and keep it clean," MFE Chair Johnson emphasized. "We have a right to fair elections and a civic duty to participate in the process."
The new CMV website includes a “Clerk’s Dashboard” to assist in cleaning the QVF by monitoring existing and new registrations and flagging anomalies. Access to the dashboard is limited to clerks, law enforcement, and approved election integrity volunteers.
"We are hoping to approve more volunteers, and we need everyone's help," Vetter said.
Volunteer signup for MFE's Soles to the Rolls
Main functionality of the CMV website
Every voter in Michigan now has the ability to audit their address and/or voting history using the CMV website. Any individual can now audit any address in Michigan. CMV's QVF audit data is updated every month using statewide data from the Secretary of State. Data geeks will want to check CMV's “Data Analysis” menu. Here they will find Excel workbooks updated every month with helpful videos describing the data analysis.
After becoming an active volunteer in the Soles to the Roles program, those who become digital canvassers benefit from free access to monthly public QVF data downloads for all counties in Michigan. In the past month dedicated digital canvassers from Soles to the Rolls have compiled over 130,000 standard apartment and lot locations. Click here to view a big-picture video of this effort.
Citizen participation in Soles to the Rolls will bring communities and clerks together to enhance the accuracy of the state's voter rolls and restore integrity to Michigan's elections.
MFE invites citizens and clerks to join its dedicated team of volunteers.
MFE is a peaceful all-volunteer group that welcomes all individuals who wish to help restore integrity to Michigan's elections.