Winfrey expects Detroit voter turnout of up to 46% for election
Detroit — The city's elections office is predicting a significant uptick in voter turnout for Detroit in the Nov. 6 election.
Detroit Elections Director Daniel Baxter said Tuesday the office is projecting that 41 to 46 percent of the city's 470,000 registered voters will cast ballots on Election Day. That's up from 31 percent in the 2014 general election, he said.
The city's projections are based on the voter turnout in the primary as well as state turnout, which in August was 29.7 percent, the highest since at least 1978. Baxter noted that statewide turnout is pegged to be about 50 percent.
Former Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas has projected that the state will break its turnout record with 4 million voters on Nov. 6.
Baxter provided an overview of the projections and preparations for the upcoming election alongside Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey at Detroit City Council's formal session.
Tuesday marks the final day to register to vote for the Nov. 6 election. In Detroit, officials have received registration from 6,000 new voters.
The anticipated uptick, Baxter noted, is attributed to the "Trump factor," the volume of ballot proposals being considered by state voter and a lack of incumbents on the ballot, among other things. Detroit News polling has found that President Trump's 56 percent unfavorability rating is spurring more voters to participate in the election.
"All of that in and of itself creates a synergy ... as such we anticipate a significant spike," Baxter said.
Winfrey and Baxter also noted the recent U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upholds a ban on straight-party voting for the first time as well as the city's efforts to ensure "voters have been apprised of this particular issue."
Twenty-five offices will appear on the November ballot, Baxter noted. Of those, 13 are partisan and 12 are nonpartisan races. In addition, voters will decide three statewide ballot questions.
In addition to the office's TV commercials, radio, billboard and bus campaign, it also will be opening an additional satellite voting precinct at the Rosa Parks Transit Center, Winfrey said. The department now has five total satellite campuses where voters can cast absentee ballots beginning Oct. 16.
"There is no longer a debate. We want to ensure that all of our voters know for this election they can no longer vote straight party," Winfrey said. "It's an important caveat this election. We want to make sure that's clear."
Baxter said he's encouraging voters to use sample ballots as a tool to identify candidates that they want to vote for on Election Day. The department mailed out the sample ballots last week, and Baxter and Winfrey are encouraging voters to bring them with them to the polls on Nov. 6 and to transfer over candidates they've marked down on the sample ballots to the official election ballot.
Poll workers, they noted, are trained on the straight ticket changes, and community groups have called on the clerk's office to provide demonstrations on the voting equipment as well as straight-ticket voting.
To deal with the increased turnout and potential bottlenecks tied to the straight-ticket changes, Baxter said the office will add voting booths at the city's precincts.
Rather than the recommended ratio of one booth per every 300 voters, the city will have one booth per every 100 voters, he said. The office has also ordered 400,000 ballots for the election.
The city received 38,000 requests for absentee ballots and mailed out 38,000 ballots, 9,000 of which have been returned so far, Baxter said.
Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez asked Winfrey Tuesday about efforts to ensure polling locations are open on time Election Day. The council member contends it's been an ongoing issue and most recently occurred during the August primary.
In the Aug. 7 election, more than a dozen locations throughout Metro Detroit experienced slowdowns due to power outages.
"It's not a chronic issue," Winfrey said. "Because of the weather in the primary, there was a storm that caused a power outage in the city of Detroit. We can't control that. By and large, we have less than five that may open late on election day and that's not bad considering we have nearly 300 polling locations."