LAPEER COUNTY, MI – An investigation is underway by police after a newly installed ballot box was damaged outside of a township hall in northwest Lapeer County.

The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office is looking into who may be responsible for damaging the box earlier this month outside the Marathon Township Hall, 4575 Pine St., in Columbiaville.

Marathon Township Clerk Dawn D. Johnson said the box had been installed on Sept. 25 after the local government received a grant through the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

The township has seen triple the number of absentee ballots requested in comparison to the 2016 election, due to COVID-19 as well as previous changes to the process that allows for no-reason absentee ballots.

A timeline on when the incident developed after Johnson headed to the office around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2 and noticed the damage.

It’s believed the incident took place sometimes between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct 2, Lapeer County Detective Sgt. Jason Parks said.

A resident near the township hall told police they were outside around 1:30 a.m. Oct. 2 and did not recall seeing any damage at the time.

Johnson called police, Lapeer County Clerk Teresa Spencer, the state Bureau of Elections as well as and voters to let them know what happened and that ballots were not compromised.

Eight ballots were inside the box when it was damaged, Johnson said. A pry bar was used by township officials to remove the ballots from the box.

The ballot box was impacted by something to jar it from its concrete base, Parks said, but there were no marks to show any signs of repeated blows with a blunt object.

“It’s made out of metal,” he said of the ballot box. “It was pushed from the north to the south which is the direction of the parking lot…Unfortunately there’s not enough evidence to determine if it was an accidental or intentional act.”

There are no surveillance cameras in the immediate area, but Johnson said police were reaching out to residents close to the township hall to see if they may have any type of home security cameras that may have captured the incident.

A slot remains on the front door of the township hall where residents can drop off their ballots. A replacement ballot box is being sought by township officials, Johnson said.

She’d reached out for the ballot box to keep them separate for other items such as bills and taxes placed in the same slot, but Johnson joked: “Apparently we aren’t allowed to have nice things out here in the community.”

Parks noted it’s the first report in the county of such an incident amid the current election cycle.

The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office is continuing their investigation into the matter.

“We want to make sure we ensure any integrity with ballots cast throughout the Lapeer County,” said Parks.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office at 810-664-1801.

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