ACLU, Detroit City Clerk agreement to ease backlog of absentee ballot applications

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — City Clerk Janice Winfrey and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan reached an agreement Tuesday, declaring that there will not be a backlog of absentee voter applications.

The resolution comes after the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court earlier this month stating the clerk's office "systematically failed to comply with her duty to issue absentee ballots within 24 hours of the receipt of an application."

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey

As of Sept. 23, the Clerk's office was in possession of 200,000 absentee ballot applications. Data from the Secretary of State's office show that as of Oct. 12, the office had issued 132,879 ballots and "appears that up to 70,000 ballot applications have been sitting in the defendant's office for almost three weeks," the lawsuit states.

Per the agreement, Winfrey has pledged to process all incoming applications within 24 hours of receipt.

The Clerk’s office will also be extending the hours of its voter hotline (313) 876-0190, open 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day.

"In this election, I am proud of Detroit for requesting so many absent voter ballots, and I am proud of the effort my office has put forward in meeting the demand," Winfrey said in a statement. "Every vote counts, and we are working seven days a week to ensure Detroiters’ voices are heard on Nov. 3."

As of Tuesday, Winfrey's office issued 168,938 absentee ballots for the general election and 111,226 had been returned, said Matt Friedman, a spokesman for Detroit Votes 2020. The office, he said, expects to issue at least 175,000 absentee ballots and count about 160,000 overall.

"We are grateful to Detroit City Clerk Winfrey for working to address the backlog of absentee ballot requests, and for agreeing to ensure that all forthcoming requests will be addressed within 24 hours of receipt," said Phil Mayor, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney, in a statement. "Our democracy thrives when we all have a voice, and voting is our voice. We are confident that Detroit voters will be heard."

To check on the status of their ballot, voters can call the Clerk’s hotline, visit, or the Secretary of State’s website

If a voter has requested a ballot that the website indicates has not yet been sent, the voter can alert the Clerk by calling (313) 876-0190 or alert the ACLU by calling (866) OUR-VOTE. 

In addition, any voter who has requested a ballot, but not yet received their ballot and does not want to continue to wait, can go to any satellite office in Detroit and cast their ballot in person, seven days a week. For locations, see Voter Centers at

Detroiters who already have their absentee ballot should complete the ballot, sign it, and drop it off as soon as possible at the Clerk’s office, a satellite office, or a secure drop-box. Absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_