Corruption meets incompetence in the Detroit election scandal

Sep 4, 2013

They finally certified the result of the Detroit mayoral primary election yesterday, almost a month after the vote.

Unfortunately, what went on demonstrates conclusively that neither the county nor the city can be trusted to run elections. The state, if not the federal government, needs to come in and run Detroit’s general election in November.

The primary result itself was stunning, as we learned on election night. More than half the voters wrote in the name Mike Duggan. For any candidate to win as a write-in is almost unheard of.

But in this case, Duggan is a white man who moved into a nearly all-black city to run for mayor. I figured his ego had gotten the better of him. But I was wrong, and the most inspiring thing is this: Detroiters proved all those who said they were incapable of rising above race prejudice are dead wrong.

Detroiters clearly don’t care if they have a black mayor, a white one, or a purple one. They want the candidate they think is most likely to get the cops to come and the streetlights to come on, and last month, a majority thought that person was Mike Duggan.

But while the voters deserve praise, their officials and politicians deserve anything but. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett’s operation tried to disenfranchise more than half of Mike Duggan’s voters, based on some trumped-up nonsense about not counting write-ins where counters had failed to make “hash marks.”

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers then refused to certify the results, which meant elections officials from the secretary of state had to come to Detroit. They did.

Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas has been in his job for many years, and I’ve never known him to utter the slightest criticism of any local official.

But yesterday, he said this: The state intervention “has stopped the most massive disenfranchisement in the history of the state.” Thomas added that the state had to “correct a problem that should not have occurred.”

As expected, the state overturned Wayne County Clerk Garrett’s blatant attempt to discard most of Duggan’s votes. But they also found that city clerk Janice Winfrey’s operation somehow missed more than 4,000 of Mike Duggan’s votes. Corruption, meet incompetence.

Runner-up Benny Napoleon, who had almost identical vote totals in every count, is probably going to lose in November.  But he’s run an honorable campaign, and yesterday called for federal oversight of the election, saying, “At this historic time, Detroit voters need to be assured beyond any doubt that their vote will be counted and counted accurately.”

Nobody could put it better. What is dismaying, however is that some just can’t seem to accept the results of this election. Chief among these is Tom Barrow, an ex-convict who has run for mayor and lost four times. But though he got less than four percent of the vote, he is calling for a recount. D Etta Wilcoxson, who lost the primary for Secretary of State by four to one, is suing as well.

They need new hobbies. The people know what they are doing. All Detroit voters need is a little oversight to make sure nobody tries to take away their voice and their power in November.