County board in split vote upholds clerk’s decision to oust canvasser.

May 13, 2021

Chuck Ritchard addresses the Oceana County Board of Commissioners Thursday as Commissioner Timothy Beggs listens.

County board in split vote upholds clerk’s decision to oust canvasser.

Clerk Amy Anderson suspended Chuck Ritchard for violating his oath of office after receiving his email, April 23, that cited election fraud as the reason for his intention to not certify the results. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — The Oceana County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 to oust Oceana County Board of Canvassers Chairman Charles “Chuck” Ritchard from his duties after he refused to certify results of the May 4 election.

The board’s action followed nearly four hours of discussion during a regular meeting Thursday, May 13, at the Oceana County Services Building. The commissioners voted to uphold Oceana County Clerk Amy Anderson’s suspension of Ritchard and permanently remove him from office. 

Clerk Anderson suspended Ritchard for violating his oath of office after receiving his email, April 23, that cited election fraud as the reason for his intention to not certify the results.

“Given all the current issues with this past election (Nov. 3, 2020) I do not believe that we can assure our electorate that we have a clean system in Oceana County,” Ritchard states in his email. “I have requested from our clerk, to request a formal corrective action from Secretary (of State Jocelyn) Benson and to date have not received a response. Additionally, I had sent a personal letter to the Secretary of State stating that it was not my intent to certify the next election using electronic means until she can provide that corrective action.”

Peggy Wittman, who spoke in support of Ritchard, displays a sign, “I pray for America.”

Ritchard, a Republican, attended a protest at the State Capitol last November during the state board of canvassers meeting and was photographed by media wearing a Donald Trump mask. He also appeared on a local news broadcast with a group of Trump supporters prior to attending the “Save America March” in Washington, DC, Jan. 6, which preceded the insurrection at the US Capitol.

Anderson and all seven county board members are Republicans.

Several of Ritchard’s supporters attended the meeting, including former Oceana County Commissioner Andrew Sebolt and current Muskegon County Commissioner Malinda Pego.

Ritchard told the board that he has filed a lawsuit against the county in federal court.

“I am asking you to listen to the facts, because what has been fabricated is a lie,” said Peggy Wittman of Hart to the commissioners. “Chuck Ritchard does his job; you appointed him to do his job; and Amy Anderson does not want him to do his job. There is no way that is representing the people. I am one of the people, and we just want it handled fairly and honestly in order to give God the glory. Amen.”

Clerk Amy Anderson and Attorney Gary Britton.

County canvassers in Michigan include two Republican members and two Democratic members appointed by the county board of commissioners to four-year terms. They are responsible for canvassing the votes and certifying elections for all local, county-wide and district offices within the county. They are also responsible for inspecting the county’s ballot containers every four years. 

The Oceana County Board of Canvassers was delayed one day in certifying results of the May 4 special election due to a “disruption” and “pre-meeting rhetoric,” Anderson said previously. Sources identified Ritchard as the person who caused the disruption.

Ballot casters voted favorably for three proposals in Tuesday’s election — the Shelby Public Schools bond proposal with a vote total of 899-642; the West Shore Educational Service District special education millage renewal, 270-151; and the Hart Township millage renewal, 166-99.

Commissioners voting in favor of the motion to remove Ritchard from office were Chairman Robert Walker, Vice Chairman Paul Erickson, Phil Morse and Ron Christians. Voting “no” were Martha Meyette, Craig Hardy and Timothy Beggs.

Commissioner Martha Meyette addresses the board.

After the board passed the motion to uphold Anderson’s decision to oust Ritchard, a motion to retain him followed, which failed 4-3.

Ritchard committed an “anticipatory breach of duty,” said Gary Britton, attorney for the county. “You don’t have to wait until they breach the duty if they clearly indicate that they’re not going to do something. Or in this case forcing the clerk to provide information and to rely on whether the secretary of state provided information. That is not the job of the board of canvassers.”

If the county board of canvassers had not fulfilled its duty to certify the election results, then the state would have had to step in — with a “substantial” bill to the county for its services, Britton said. “Basically, he was saying that’s where we’re going.”

“What we’re trying to do is provide the utmost confidence in our voters,” said Ritchard. “I’ve heard comments, ‘Well, we’ve never had a problem’ — how do you know that you don’t have a problem? How do you know what you don’t know?”

“I am concerned that we’ve skipped a step here in the process,” said Commissioner Beggs. “Perhaps Mr. Ritchard would comply, perhaps he would not. We missed an intermediate step of teaching a correction to align his actions with what the law states and giving him an opportunity to perform.”

“This is not a partisan issue — this is a taxpayer issue,” said Commissioner Erickson. “I don’t know why partisan politics have anything to do with a millage request.”

“Over 50 percent of voters believe that it is likely there was fraud in the 2020 general election,” said Commissioner Meyette, who spoke at length about alleged voter fraud on a national level. “There were mistakes being made due to electronics.”

“All of the Dominion conspiracy we need not speak of today,” said Erickson. “What we need to address today is the certification by the board of canvassers of that election. It’s that simple.”

Ritchard argued that the clerk’s role with the board of canvassers is not a supervisory role but rather a “subservient” role.

“What’s important is that we have the utmost integrity in this system,” said Ritchard.

“I didn’t get that ability to vote no or yes,” he said. “I didn’t get that ability to say, ‘No, I’m not certifying this. I didn’t get afforded that opportunity. What does that say to our residents? Their rights don’t matter.”

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