Updated: Oct 27, 2022
"Being right and being polite."
Margie Gillean and Renita Bonadies gave this public comment Sep. 6, 2022, at the Midland County Board of Commissioner's meeting. The authorities have not been willing to give them the Qualified Voter File or Cast Vote Records data. Renita had attended the August 23rd Executive County Commissioner Meeting. "I was quite upset and disturbed to hear the report about the FOIA requests by the FOIA Coordinator and the comments by the Clerk," she told the Commissioners. "The Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1976 is a law. The intent is to force transparency of the elected officials and government bodies." Below are her words:" "Instead of being open and transparent and embracing the law and desiring to fulfill the requests, I heard comments about those that made the requests. They were referred to as coming from a 'Fringe Group in the community.' And went on to further note that they are the same people that 'believe in the conspiracy that the 2020 election was stolen.' This labeling of members of this community, or of anyone asking for information under Michigan Law, seems negligent of one’s law abiding duties. It also seemed like an attempt to discourage, shame and discount the validity of those asking for this information. Another comment was made after Chairman Scott Noesen asked about the information being requested. The response was that the data contains personal information. The FOIA law has made exceptions for a limited amount of data that is deemed personal or proprietary and that can be redacted from the released data. The law does not allow for a request to be denied in full because there is personal information in the data being requested. This is a blatant attempt to subvert the law and deny the transparency that the law requires. Further, the MI Election Law Act 116 of 1954, 168.509gg clearly states what information is exempt from FOIA. All other information must be released under the law, with that small piece of data, like the month and date of birth, but not year, to be redacted and not released. There is no cherry picking what information the FOIA Coordinator or Clerk desire to release. It is Michigan Law. If this data is not released in full, it is a violation of Michigan Law. I would hope the elected officials and hired staff of this county would desire to be open and transparent and to help assure the members of this community that our election process is fair and transparent. Simply saying is fair, does not give that assurance.