Detroit expects slightly lower voter turnout Tuesday

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A “lack of enthusiasm” this presidential election cycle, has city election officials forecasting a lower voter turnout Tuesday in Detroit.

City Clerk Janice Winfrey said Thursday her office expects a voter turnout of 45 percent to 50 percent for Election Day. That’s down from 51 percent in the 2012 race and 53 percent in 2008. The city has 513,000 registered voters.

The department, Winfrey said, has issued 54,640 absentee ballots. Of those, 38,796 have been returned. They expect to count about 65,000. In the 2012 presidential election, the department counted 81,000 absentee ballots, and 77,000 in 2008.

The lower numbers aren’t surprising, Department of Elections Director Daniel Baxter said.

“The phenomenon that we’re dealing with in terms of absentees is a post-Obama election,” he said during a Thursday news conference at the Department of Elections offices on West Grand Boulevard. “As you know, the city of Detroit is predominately African-American and when President Obama ran in 2008 every person, every Detroiter felt the need to go to the polls on Election Day. Then, in 2012, we saw the same phenomenon.

“This election, I think that what we’re seeing right now is a lack of enthusiasm as a result of President Obama not being on the ballot.”

Winfrey said she expects quick ballot processing Tuesday and is urging voters to study samples of the three-page ballot that have been mailed out to all registered households Detroit to curb wait times.

City voters on Tuesday will decide races for school board by picking seven candidates out of a field of 63 and one at-large City Council seat.

The ballot covers a list of partisan and nonpartisan candidates from county offices to state House to U.S. House as well as several proposals, including dueling ordinances for community benefits as a result of large development projects, a Regional Transit Authority millage and a Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency schools millage.

“Long lines is one thing we fear could happen if they don’t study the ballot prior to going to Election Day,” she said. “We’re driving the satellite voting as well, the absentee voting in person.”

The office has eliminated a couple steps in the voting process by swiping driver’s licenses and uploading information into the electronic poll book.

“Voters will be processed in a very timely fashion,” she said. “We want to eliminate lines in this election.”

In terms of safety, Winfrey said the city’s police department will be providing tactical support on Election Day, assigning a supervisor and four officers at each police precinct to be ready to address any issues.

Absentee ballots can be mailed in or submitted in-person at the City Clerk’s Office on Woodward or at the elections offices on West Grand. They also can be completed at satellite locations including Wayne County Community College District’s northwest and eastern campuses, the Rosa Parks Transit Center and the Patton Recreation Center.

To vote absentee, an individual must be 60 and up, away from the community on Election Day, religious conflicts or incarcerations, working the polls on the day of the election or are physically unable, Winfrey said.

Winfrey expects unofficial results will be available by 11 p.m. on Election Day.