Detroit election issues (surprise!) could prompt recount

Detroit election issues (surprise!) could prompt recount
November 13, 2017 Bridge Magazine

Another election, more questions about balloting in Detroit.

Detroit Clerk candidate Garlin Gilchrist II told reporters on Wednesday that he’s mulling seeking a recount in his squeaker loss the day before to incumbent Janice Winfrey.

Gilchrist was up comfortably all night before a late-surge from absentee votes pushed Winfrey to prevail by about 1,400 votes (50-49 percent.)

Gilchrist said he’s heard “troubling accounts from voters about their experiences … that give us concern about the vote tallies.” Among them: Several residents who say they showed up to vote, but were told they already cast absentee ballots, while others say they received absentee ballots in the mail they didn’t request.

“We deserve transparency,” said Gilchrist, who worked for Moveon.org and is the city’s former director of new and emerging technology.

“The way the votes are counted need to be open and transparent for everyone to see.”

Daniel Baxter, the city’s elections director, learned of the allegations from Bridge and declined comment.

MORE COVERAGE: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan wins big. Does he have a mandate?

Winfrey’s comeback win shocked even some of her supporters Tuesday night. Her campaign relied heavily on big turnout from absentee voters, but supporters gathered at City Elections Headquarters on East Grand Boulevard were practically conceding defeat as votes were counted about 9 p.m. Tuesday, saying she was far too behind to pull even. By 10, Winfrey had closed the gap.

Gilchrist said he’s investigating the complaints and will make a decision soon on a recount. By law, candidates can request a recount up to six days after the election is certified by the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, a process that takes about two weeks.

The canvassers on Wednesday received about 90-95 percent of ballots and supporting materials from Detroit, which is an improvement over recent elections. In years past, particularly last November, Detroit was still delivering ballots and poll books to canvassers a week or more after balloting.

MORE COVERAGE: Botched elections. Missing ballots. Is this any way to run a democracy?

Tuesday’s election was the second to feature new voting machines in Detroit and other cities in Michigan that were supposed to fix a host of previous balloting problems, including last November’s national embarrassment, when more than half of Detroit’s precincts were ineligible to be recounted because the number of ballots in voting machines didn’t match those in poll books.

Bridge has written extensively about voting problems in Detroit and elsewhere.

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