Winfrey expects low voter turnout in Detroit primary
Detroit — City Clerk Janice Winfrey said she is expecting a low voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary but believes this election will run smoother than last November’s with Detroit rolling out its 600 new voting machines.
Winfrey said Thursday her office anticipates 10-15 percent of the city’s 469,000 registered voters will show up to the polls, which would be down from the 17 percent participation in the 2013 primary.
The clerk’s office plans to count about 27,000 absentee ballots, which would also be lower than four years ago.
“Our expected turnout is not what we’d like,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey’s office was under fire after the 2016 presidential election when a state audit found that an “abundance of human errors” caused voting irregularities at Detroit precincts. There were mismatches between ballot boxes and recorded vote totals in nearly 60 percent of the city’s precincts during a canvassing of the election results.
Winfrey blamed the issue on outdated equipment.
In its audit released in December, the State Elections Bureau “found no widespread failure of voting equipment that accounted for the breadth and depth of problems experienced in Detroit.” Mayor Mike Duggan also noted all communities statewide were using the same equipment and weren’t having the same problems.
The new machines are “state-of-the-art,” Winfrey said, and have larger screens that show voters and poll workers when a ballot has been accepted and counted. If there are issues with the ballot, the screen will alert the user, she said, demonstrating how the new machines work at a news conference.
The machine also has larger bins to hold every ballot, which will minimize jamming issues, officials say.
“It’s faster and it’s brand new so we don’t expect any issues,” Winfrey said. “It’s just like a new car, everything is working, everything is new and improved.”
Detroit Elections Director Daniel Baxter said the results process should also be more efficient, because the machines will transmit results directly to the elections headquarters.
The machines have gone through a series of accuracy tests to ensure they are ready to transmit votes, Winfrey said.
“On election night we should have more efficient election returns,” Baxter said. “We are hoping we will have all our returns in by no later than 10:30 (p.m.).”
The clerk’s office boosted training for its poll workers after the state’s audit, Winfrey said. Training is more “intense” for this election, she said, and sessions focused on how the new equipment works and how to process special ballots, such as provisional ballots.