A Michigan clerk appears to have taken a determined stand against lawn commode voting. The problem is not that Barb Byrum, the clerk of Ingham County is entirely humorless.
Rather, she appears legally clueless in a complaint filed against a Mason, Michigan resident who put a toilet on their lawn with a sign that reads, “Place mail in ballots here.”
Byrum could have denounced it as scatological, but instead declared it unlawful on the basis of an absurd theory that people would mistake the toilet for a polling place or mailbox. However, the Democratic clerk vowed to “quash” anyone mocking the election in this way.
Byrum insisted that “It is a felony to take illegal possession of an absentee ballot. Elections in this country are to be taken seriously and there are many people who are voting by mail for the first time this election.”
In so saying, Byrum succeeded in looking even more crazed than the residents with a toilet on their lawn.
The relevant provision appears to be:
(f) A person other than an absent voter; a person whose job it is to handle mail before, during, or after being transported by a public postal service, express mail service, parcel post service, or common carrier, but only during the normal course of his or her employment; a clerk or assistant of the clerk; a member of the immediate family of the absent voter including father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild; or a person residing in the absent voter’s household shall not do any of the following:
(i) Possess an absent voter ballot mailed or delivered to another person, regardless of whether the ballot has been voted.
(ii) Return, solicit to return, or agree to return an absent voter ballot to the clerk of a city, township, village, or school district.
This of course is a toilet and a joke. If a voter actually thought he or she was voting by lawn commode, would we really want that person participating in an election?
If the resident is joking, it is not solicitation to return. Moreover, Byrum is using this ridiculous interpretation to effectively punish a voter for engaging in political speech. The picture shows that next to the toilet is a sign reading “Recall Whitmer.” This is clearly political speech protesting the massive increase in mail-in voting that has many citizens (and President Donald Trump) complaining over possible fraud. So Byrum responds with a criminal referral that seems retaliatory and harassing in character.
Byrum also comes across as a petty tyrant in proclaiming:
“This kind of behavior needs to be quashed immediately. They are making a mockery of our elections. I’m not going to stand idly by and watch it happen.”
That comment seems so over-the-top that I double checked sources to confirm that she said it.
Byrum appears to view her office as empowering her to “quash . . . mockery” like some humor police. The mockery in this story is using a felony crime to threaten political critics.
This is why Einstein said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”