Voting before Election Day in Detroit? Expect fewer satellite locations, drop boxes

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Voters casting absentee ballots ahead of the Aug. 3 primary election will find fewer drop boxes and satellite locations to turn in their votes compared to the November presidential election, and that is drawing criticism from two candidates challenging Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey.

Detroit had 30 dropboxes in the presidential election and for next month's primary there are 20, Winfrey said.

The city also had seven satellite locations in each of the seven council districts. More were needed then, "because we were operating during a pandemic," she said. This year, there are two satellite locations in every council district.

A City of Detroit official ballot drop box outside the Farwell Recreation Center.

It's based on demand, she said.

"My biggest job is to ensure access to the ballot," she said. "During the pandemic, I had double because it was a pandemic when the mail wasn’t running and the post office couldn’t guarantee they would make it in on time."

While cases have fallen sharply and most restrictions have ended, local, state and federal officials have not declared an end to the pandemic and continue the push to convince people to get vaccinated as the delta variant continues to spread.

Currently, only about 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated – and some parts of the country have far lower immunization rates, places where the delta variant is surging. On Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that’s leading to “two truths” – highly immunized swaths of America are getting back to normal while hospitalizations are rising in other places.

Winfrey, who is running for reelection, expects about a 13% to 18% voter turnout. Turnout in August of 2020 was 25%.

While it's an important primary for residents to vote in, she said, there's less on the ballot with only three out of seven city council districts contested in the primary. Also on the ballot are elections for mayor and city clerk. Whether Proposal P, which seeks to permanently change the city charter, is a valid ballot issue is under consideration by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Winfrey's two challengers in the primary are criticizing the removal of the drop boxes and satellite locations

Beverly Kindle-Walker in a statement Wednesday said: "The Clerk is anticipating that voters are less interested in voting for the offices of Mayor, City Clerk, City Council, Police Commission and Proposal P. COVID and variations are still lingering and we should remain vigilant."

There are no contested races for police commissioner on the August ballot because there aren't enough candidates. All candidates advance to the November general election.

Denzel McCampbell also shared criticism saying the Department of Elections should reinstall ballot boxes so residents have as many options as possible.

"It is unacceptable to cite anticipated lower voter turnout as a reason for the reduced drop boxes when we’ve yet to see a coordinated effort to increase turnout from our city government," he said in a statement.

"I don’t waste money and I'm frugal in spending taxpayer dollars," Winfrey said about her decision. "If we find voter activity is picking up, we'll add more. I’ve been having satellite voting since 2010 since before it was popular... and when you talk about voter suppression, one has nothing to do with the other."

Michigan Secretary of State spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer said changes in the number of drop boxes ahead of the primary is nothing out of the ordinary.

"As was the case in elections last year, local jurisdictions determine if and how many absent voter ballot drop boxes they choose to utilize," Wimmer said in an email. "The Bureau of Elections continues to support local election officials conducting elections in Detroit and across the state."

Polling locations are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 3.

Residents can cast their absentee ballot in person 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Department of Elections, at 2978 W. Grand Blvd.

Starting Monday, residents can vote from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the following locations. Sites will also extend the same hours on July 31 and Aug. 1:

  • In District 1: WCCCD Northwest Campus, 8200 W. Outer Drive
    and Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. 7 Mile 
  • In District 2: Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers 
    and Tindal Activity Center, 10301 W. 7 Mile 
  • In District 3: Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 E. Outer Drive
    and DWSD Eastside Customer Care, 13303 E. McNichols
  • In District 4: WCCCD Eastern Campus, 59901 Conner 
    and Butzel Family Recreation Center, 7737 Kercheval
  • In District 5: Department of Elections, 2978 W. Grand Blvd.
    and City Clerk's Office, 2 Woodward 
  • In District 6: Clark Park, 1130 Clark 
    and Kemeny Recreation Center, 2250 S. Fort 
  • In District 7: Adam Butzel Recreation Campus, 10500 Lyndon 

Absentee ballots must be returned no later than 4 p.m. Aug. 2.

Voters can request an absentee ballot by calling the Department of Elections at (313) 876-0190, find their polling locations here, or find state voting information at mvic.sos.state.mi.us.

Drop boxes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the following locations:

  • Adams Butzel Recreation Complex, 10500 Lyndon (at Meyers)
  • Butzel Family Center, 7737 Kercheval (at Van Dyke)
  • Clark Park, 1130 Clark (Scotten & Vernor)
  • City Clerk - Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward Ste. 200 (at Jefferson)
  • Department Of Elections, 2978 W. Grand Blvd. (at Third)
  • Detroit Water/sewer - Eastside Customer Center, 13303 E. McNichols
  • Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 E. Outer Dr. (at Ryan Rd.)
  • Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. 7 Mile (at Shiawassee)
  • Kemeny Recreation Center, 2260 S. Fort (at Schaefer)
  • Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers (at Curtis)
  • Renaissance Baptist Church, 1045 E. Grand Blvd. (near E. Forest)
  • Rouge Park Golf Course, 11701 Burt (Outer Dr. & Plymouth)
  • Tindal Recreation Center, 10301 W. 7 Mile  (at Meyers)
  • Messiah Baptist Church, 8100 W. 7 Mile 
  • Liberty Temple Baptist Church, 17188 Greenfield  (near 6 Mile/McNichols)
  • North Rosedale Park Community House, 18445 Scarsdale (near Puritan)
  • Pistons Performance Center, 690 Amsterdam (at Second Ave.)
  • WCCCD Eastern Campus, 5901 Conner (at I-94)
  • Northwest Campus, 8200 W. Outer (at Southfield Fwy.)
  • Downtown campus, 1001 W. Fort (at Lafayette)

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc and the Associated Press contributed.