An absentee ballot drop box.
The city of Detroit is offering fewer drop boxes and satellite locations for voters to return their absentee ballots in the Aug. 3 primary election, drawing criticism from the two candidates vying to replace Clerk Janice Winfrey.
Detroit will have 20 drop boxes for the primary election, compared to 32 in the 2020 presidential election. The number of satellite locations in each of the city’s council districts were also pared from seven to two.
The reductions come as Detroit’s COVID-19 vaccination rate remains one of the lowest in the state, and the delta variant continues to pose risks of another coronavirus breakout.
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey defended the reductions, saying fewer voters are expected to cast a ballot in the primary election.
But Winfrey’s challengers in the Aug. 3 election disagree. Clerk candidate Denzel McCampbell
, a voting rights advocate, Detroit charter revision commissioner, and communications director for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, said the city should be trying to increase voter turnout.
“During a time when Detroiters are faced with voter suppression efforts by Republicans in Lansing, it’s outrageous that the Detroit City Clerk’s office has decreased the number of absentee ballot drop boxes available to voters,” McCampbell said in a statement. “It is unacceptable to cite anticipated lower voter turnout as a reason for the reduced drop boxes when we’ve yet to see a coordinated effort to increase turnout from our city government.”
McCampbell also pointed out that a batch of absentee ballot applications were sent out to Detroiters with the wrong return address. Winfrey’s office hired a mailing company, Wolverine Solutions Group, that inadvertently placed a Texas return address on the envelopes.
“Detroiters deserve better,” McCampbell said. “We must work to ensure that elections are accessible, and that voting is made as easy as possible – Detroiters cannot afford anything less. The Detroit City Clerk should reverse course and re-install the drop boxes from 2020 so that voters in the city have as many options to cast their ballots as possible.”
Clerk candidate Beverly Kindle-Walker cited COVID-19 as a reason to offer more drop boxes and satellite offices.
"The Clerk is anticipating that voters are less interested in voting for the offices of Mayor, City Clerk, City Council, Police Commission, and Proposal P,” Kindle-Walker told The Detroit News in a statement
. “COVID and variations are still lingering and we should remain vigilant."
At a press conference in April, Winfrey criticized Republican lawmakers for trying to curb voting access by restricting satellite offices and drop boxes.
“To prevent curbside voting is a slap in the face to those Americans who may be disabled,” Winfrey said at the time. “To get rid of these things is to get rid of democracy.”
Stay connected with Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.