Confusion over who won the Detroit mayoral primary

Aug 20, 2013

Update 5:54 p.m.

The state will settle the issue of who really won the Detroit mayoral primary election earlier this month, after the Wayne County Board of Canvassers declined to certify the results.

At issue are about 18,000 votes, and a controversy over how they were counted.

Apparently votes are customarily counted with hash marks, but some election workers used numbers instead.  If the votes with numbers get thrown out, the two winners would switch places, with Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon coming out on top, and former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan finishing second. 

Rather than certifying the election, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers has asked the state Bureau of Elections to settle the question. A spokesman for the state says the last time a county board failed to certify an election was the 1980s.  

Whatever the outcome, Duggan and Napoleon will face off in November. 

Update 4:57 p.m.

Matt Helms and Joe Guillen of the Detroit Free Press report that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers is debating whether to toss 18,000 votes from the August 6th Detroit mayoral election.

The Freep reports that Mike Duggan's legal team says they'll fight any results where that many votes are not counted:

“It’s the most outrageous, disgraceful thing I’ve seen in 20 years of observing elections,” said Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, legal counsel for Mike Duggan. “This is worse than Bush versus Gore.”

He said Duggan’s team has appealed to the Michigan Bureau of Elections for an answer, and would challenge any certification that did not include the left-out numbers.

And from the same piece, Benny Napoleon said the controversy calls into question the whole election process in Detroit and is calling for federal oversight of the general election:

“A citizen’s vote is the cornerstone of Democracy, and people should be able to put their faith in their ballot,” Napoleon, who finished second in the mayoral primary to Duggan, said in a statement.

“This is no small margin of error. This is very troubling and I believe it is cause for Detroit’s General Election to be overseen by the highest authority — either the Federal Elections Commission or the Department of Justice, Napoleon said. 

4:09 p.m.

Area newsrooms are working to find out what happened to all the write-in votes cast for Mike Duggan. WXYZ-TV reports thousands of Duggan votes were not counted because of a difference between how the city and the county tallies votes:

A county election official told the board the remaining votes were not counted because city election workers improperly tallied them. According to a state law, the city no longer has canvass board. Instead, elections must be certified by the county.

The county uses hash-marks to tally votes. Instead, city election workers used numbers to tally some of the votes. Since numbers were used and not hash marks, they were uncounted.

WXYZ reports the county board of canvassers has yet to to certify the election results, "but it was scheduled to take a vote to do so this afternoon."


3:47 p.m.

On August 6, everyone thought that Mike Duggan won the Detroit mayoral primary. 

We interviewed him, and Duggan had already started outlining his plans as Mayor of Detroit.

But today, the Detroit News is reporting that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers said that Benny Napoleon won the mayoral primary.

Two weeks ago, we thought Napolean had come in second. 

According to the Detroit News, the Board of Canvassers announced that Napoleon won with 28,391 votes. Duggan got 23,970. 

The News said that Lisa Howze, a former State Representative and a mayoral candidate who came in 4th in the race, will endorse Duggan for mayor:

She said she is supporting Duggan because they share the same vision about the neighborhood investment and economic development, adding that Duggan has the "tenacity and know-how to make relationships in the community" to get the job done as mayor. 

The panel upheld several different versions of write-in votes cast for Duggan: Mike Duggnn, Mick E. Duggan, Milk Duggan, Mr. Duggan, and Mike Duggan "the Whiteman" were some of the variations submitted.

If these results are upheld, it won't change who will appear on the ballot this November in the Detroit mayoral election. It would only change who we understand to be the top vote-getter in the August 6th primary.

*This post is being updated

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom