As election failures loom over the general election in Detroit, state weighs how to help


  • Steve Neavling

Appalling. Alarming. Concerning.

That’s how members of the bipartisan State Board of Canvassers described Detroit’s primary election Aug. 4.

Less than three months before the presidential election, when a record number of people are expected to vote by mail, no one knows how to fix the city’s chronically defective election system.

In the primary election, 72% of the city’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballot cast, making them ineligible for a recount. Some polling locations didn’t open on time.

It’s nothing new in Detroit, where the gatekeeper of elections, Clerk Janice Winfrey, has long refused to take responsibility for the perennial irregularities, making a mockery of the democratic system and further eroding trust in a fair and accurate election.

In the 2016 general election, when Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, ballot machines were broken in more than a dozen Detroit precincts, and at least one polling station didn’t open on time. Some voters left polling stations without voting because of disorganized poll workers and two-hour lines. And inaccuracies were found in 59% of the precincts, disqualifying them for a recount.

On Monday, the State Board of Canvassers urged Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to oversee Detroit’s election, but that’s already her job. The board offered no specific solutions.

"I find this whole thing appalling," Julie Matuzak, a Democratic board member, said of Detroit’s mismatched precinct counts.

Last week, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers asked Benson to review “the training and processes used by the City of Detroit” in the primary election and appoint someone to oversee the counting of absentee ballots in the general election, The Detroit News reports.

Benson's office tells Metro Times it plans to help Detroit.

"Secretary Benson and the Michigan Bureau of Elections are reviewing all the data and information from the primary in order to make a plan to assist the Detroit Clerk’s office in preventing such errors in November," Tracy Wimmer says. "They expect to be able to share more information next week."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the city can't afford repeated irregularities.

"We are reaching out now to the secretary of state and city clerk to make sure this gets fixed immediately," Duggan said in a statement last week. "We cannot have a recurrence of these problems in November."

In a lawsuit filed this week, activist Robert Davis is urging a court to require training for Detroit’s election workers.

Winfrey couldn't be reached for comment.

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