UPDATE (Sept. 22) – According to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office there will be no charges brought against the Mason man who put a toilet in his yard as a “joke” about the mail-in absentee process.
ORIGINAL REPORT – Ingham County, Mich. (WLNS)– A Mason man is speaking out after Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum filed a complaint about what he said was intended to be a joke.
“I knew that the mail-in ballot issue and absentees are very controversial right now so my feeling was it brought some awareness and I had no idea that it would blow up like this,” John Pavlik said.
Pavlik put a toilet in his yard on Sunday, Sept. 13 with a sign that reads “Place mail in ballots here!”
“I’m a retired plumber also. It’s a family business for years and so I had these extra toilets around so I thought it would be kind of cute, a little satire to put it out on my front lawn and put the sign on it,” he said.
Pavlik said he was surprised when police showed up at his door last Tuesday to take a statement from him and his wife.
“[They wanted] to know what my intent was, you know, was it just a joke or did I really try to collect mail-in ballots and of course I told him that this was just a joke and my way of just kind of, my first amendment right to express myself.”
Clerk Byrum responded to the incident last week. In a statement she wrote:
“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. We need to put out accurate, complete information about voting by mail, which is the safest way to vote during the pandemic. That starts at the top and I worry that the misinformation coming from President Trump is encouraging people to lose faith in the absentee voting process, something that has been taking place since the Civil War.”Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum
It is a felony to take illegal possession of an absentee ballot (voted or unvoted) according to Michigan Compiled Law 168.932(f). Felonies of this kind are punishable by a fine of $1,000.00 or 5 years in prison.
Pavlik said there were no ballots collected, and that he’s been keeping a close eye on the toilet, to make sure that doesn’t change. He claimed that it’s not a political issue.
“This is a non-partisan issue. I think all of us want a fair election for what goes on in the world in the unfair elections. That’s the beauty of America is that you know, we do have a great election process and we always have and I think we just all want integrity of the next election,” he said.