Detroit clerk expects voter increase on Election Day

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — City Clerk Janice Winfrey is forecasting a marked increase in city voter participation in Tuesday's election.

Winfrey attributed the anticipated 40 percent turnout to increased requests for absentee ballots as well as the close race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer. The city had a 31 percent turnout among registered voters in the 2010 governor's race.

"It may be a close race. We prepare for that and give it (turnout) a little bump up based on that," Winfrey told reporters during a news conference Thursday at the Department of Elections office on West Grand.

Winfrey says her office is prepared. Equipment has been delivered to the city's 490 voting precincts and its 4,500 poll workers are trained and ready. Real-time results will be displayed at the elections office, and Winfrey expects unofficial results will be available by 11 p.m. on Election Day.

Winfrey said Thursday that Detroit has received about 56,000 applications requesting absentee ballots. The office has processed about 50,000 of the requests and sent the absentee ballots out.

The prediction came as Detroit U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Thursday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison would monitor elections in Detroit and Hamtramck and handle any complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses in consultation with U.S. Justice Department.

So far, about 30,000 Detroit ballots have been returned, Winfrey said. The office expects to count between 35,000 and 37,000 absentee ballots, Winfrey said.

The absentee ballots come in to the city's Department of Elections and are matched up with applications received. From there, they are put into counting board order and transported to Cobo Center, where there will be 117 absentee voting precincts.

When the polls open on Election Day, the counting boards will begin to process the absentee ballots by checking to ensure the voters are registered, opening the ballots and running them through the tabulator.

Winfrey also pointed to the app "Vote4Detroit" that contains locations, hours and ballot information. A supervisor at each of the city's polling locations will have the application downloaded. This weekend the office will deploy a mobile video truck in the city's low-vote areas to encourage and remind residents to vote.

Winfrey says voting is a "community effort" and residents shouldn't neglect the responsibility.

"If you don't vote, don't complain," she said. "This is the only way we hear from you. We do everything we know to do to get that vote out."

Winfrey noted that absentee voting is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Wayne County Community College District's eastern campus at Interstate 94 and Conner and the northwest campus at Outer Drive and Southfield Road.

On Saturday, absentee voters can go to the Department of Elections office on West Grand from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The offices are not open on Sunday.

The ballot will include 16 write-in candidates in various races.