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Detroit Elections

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s partial recount of the November 7 general election is over.

The recount didn’t change the results of any races, but it did highlight some issues that continue to plague the city’s elections.

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Detroit’s election re-count carried on through a second day Wednesday.

Election workers are recounting just over 41,000 ballots cast in the November 7th election. That includes all absentee ballots, as well as results from 60 Election Day precincts with “documented issues at the polls.”

Detroit city clerk candidate Garlin Gilchrist II.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The candidate who narrowly lost his bid to become Detroit city clerk says he’ll ask for a recount of some votes cast in this month’s election.

Garlin Gilchrist II lost to incumbent clerk Janice Winfrey by about 1,400 votes. He easily won votes cast at polling precincts, but Winfrey dominated absentee votes by an even bigger margin.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

A Wayne County judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey, saying there’s “no evidence” her office mishandled absentee ballots or violated state law in last week’s general election.

The lawsuit was brought by election challengers who said Winfrey’s office used copies of absentee vote envelopes, rather than original envelopes with ballots, to verify voter information for about 1200 absentee votes dropped off at the clerk’s office on Election Day.

user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

A Detroit activist has filed a lawsuit, asking a Wayne County judge to throw out absentee ballot results from Detroit’s election last week.

Anita Belle is co-chair of the Committee for Voter Justice and a gubernatorial candidate for the Michigan Green Party. She was an election challenger at Detroit’s Cobo Center last Tuesday.

Belle says per state election law and its manual for election officials, election workers are supposed to check ballot envelopes against absentee voter applications and precinct lists from the state’s Qualified Voter File before counting the votes.

Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A lawsuit filed Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court alleges Detroit’s city clerk violated election law.

Detroiter Anita Belle says she was trying to challenge the legitimacy of potentially more than a thousand absentee ballots. She says there are voters registered at addresses that are actually vacant lots owned by the Detroit Land Bank. Belle had hoped to challenge any ballots from those addresses. But she says she wasn’t allowed to.

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A new Bridge Magazine report for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative says a lot in just the headline. It reads, “Botched elections. Missing ballots. Is this any way to run a democracy?

When an audit of last year's election turned up discrepancies between the number of voters recorded and the number of ballots counted in Detroit, many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that fraud was involved. But this new report suggests incompetence was more likely to blame.

Detroit brought in new voting equipment for 2017 elections after rampant problems with 2016 vote.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Despite receiving unfavorable national attention for some serious problems in last November’s general election, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey pledges that Tuesday’s primary election should run smoothly.

Winfrey says a combination of new voting equipment and improved poll-worker training should help avoid the problems that plagued Detroit precincts in November.

An aborted presidential recount found that votes couldn’t be “reconciled” in more than half of all Detroit precincts, meaning that voter poll books didn’t match the number of ballots cast. 

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey has broken her public silence about irregularities in the city’s November’s election results.

Michigan’s presidential recount was halted mid-process. But the partial recount revealed that more than half of Detroit precincts were legally ineligible to be recounted, because reported vote counts didn’t match the actual number of ballots.

That prompted the state to launch an audit, which is still wrapping up. Winfrey has said very little during that time.

Sign directing voters to polling place
Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0 cropped

Long delays at some voting places in Washtenaw and Wayne counties have caused some voters to leave before casting their ballots, according to a non-partisan election protection coalition in Michigan that is working in partnership with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. 

"There've been issues on the campus at the University of Michigan where students are waiting for two and three hours to vote. But all of the poll booths are set up and empty," said Melanie McElroy, director of the Michigan coalition. "They're merely waiting to be checked in electronically."

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

A citizen’s group took Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey to court Friday, in an effort to get a proposed city ordinance on the ballot.

The ordinance would require the Detroit clerk to publicly post real-time election results.

Tom Barrow is president of the group Citizens for Detroit’s Future, which spearheaded the drive to make the ordinance city law.

Barrow says the group gathered more than enough certified petition signatures, and did everything by the book according to the city charter and state law.

Detroit voters will now be able to access, sign and submit absentee ballot applications on their smartphones.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday.

Winfrey said it’s simply a matter of meeting voters where they tend to be these days—online.

“So why not? Why not be able to use their smartphone to request an absentee ballot?” Winfrey asked.

Sarah Cwiek / City of Detroit

Long-time Detroit Congressman John Conyers’ trouble with ballot petitions is raising some serious questions about the Detroit City Clerk’s office.

Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced last week that Conyers does not appear to have enough valid signatures to make the primary ballot.

That’s because two of his petition circulators registered to vote just last month. In Michigan, state law mandates that circulators be registered to vote at the time they gather signatures.

A fresh face on Detroit City Council

Nov 13, 2013
raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

Raquel Castaneda-Lopez is the newest member to the Detroit  City Council representing District 6 in Southwest Detroit,​ which includes the largest concentration of Hispanic voters in the city.  Lopez gained political experience running state Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s campaign in 2008. She has worked with non-profit groups for years with a focus on youth programs in disadvantaged communities.

Lopez says she want to keep the focus on the needs of her constituents - safety and access to city services for example. 

Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's Election Day, and federal election monitors are keeping an eye on voting in Detroit, Hamtramck and Flint. The Department of Justice wants to ensure those cities comply with the Voting Rights Act. 

Joining us to talk about the monitoring is Executive Assistant United States Attorney, Stephanie Dawkins Davis. 

"This is an effort to protect the integrity of the process. It isn’t that there has been any specific concern or that there has been any wrong doing in any of these jurisdictions. The U.S. government would like to protect the integrity of the process," Davis said.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Michigan board of state canvassers has declared Mike Duggan the winner of Detroit’s mayoral primary.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers had Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon winning the race. But they declined to certify the election, passing it up to the state.

State law specifically says people without photo IDs, can sign an affidavit - and still vote
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State elections officials will re-tabulate some of the votes cast in Detroit’s mayoral primary.

But they won’t throw out thousands of write-in votes because of how election workers marked them.

That’s good news for candidate Mike Duggan, who according to unofficial results was the top vote-getter in the August 6th primary.

But Duggan ran as a write-in candidate. And different election workers marked those votes differently—some with numbers, others with hash marks.

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's not uncommon for voter turnout to be lower on primary Election Days than on the big general Election Days in November.

But so much is at stake in Detroit's primary today. Voters will narrow the field in races for Mayor and City Council.

They'll be choosing a district-based council for the first time in nearly 100 years. These leaders will be working closely with emergency manager Kevyn Orr during the city's historic bankruptcy, and they will be running the show after Orr leaves.

So the need for competent, passionate elected officials is greater than ever, and yet, turnout at the polls in Detroit is expected to be in the 15-17% range.

We wanted to talk about what's behind that chronically low number. Could it be something besides disaffected, uninvolved residents?

Nancy Derringer, a writer for Bridge Magazine, and Karen Dumas, the former chief of communications for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a communications/PR strategist, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit elections officials are preparing for a long night after next week’s primary-- likely to be one of the more interesting primaries in Detroit history.

One of the front-running mayoral candidates, Mike Duggan, is only running as a write-in.

He faces another write-in candidate , Mike Dugeon, whose name is pronounced the same—and spelled virtually the same way.

Detroit City Council members used to represent the city at large instead of defined districts. In 2009, Detroit residents voted to elect City Council members by district. For the upcoming election season, visit the link below to see who is running for City Council from each Detroit district.