Turnout light, irregularities refuted during voting
Election workers reported light turnout and few problems as residents headed to the polls Tuesday to decide mayoral and City Council contenders in Detroit and other Metro Detroit communities.
Detroit rolled out new elections machines for Tuesday’s primary, but things appeared to be running smoothly.
“The only issue we’ve had is a lack of voters,” said Katrina Jones, 32, chairperson of Precinct 236, one of three precincts located at the Northwest Activities Center, on the 18100 block of Meyers. Irregularities reported at the center early Tuesday didn’t appear to be a problem.
“We’re fine,” said Lovetta Showers, 69, polling site assessor for the precinct. “It’s kind of slow today is all.”
Of the 1,502 voters assigned to the precinct, only 54 had voted as of 1 p.m., election workers there confirmed.
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey was expecting 10-15 percent of the city’s 469,000 registered voters to show up Tuesday at the polls, which would be down from the 17 percent participation in the 2013 primary.
The clerk’s office plans to count about 27,000 absentee ballots, which would also be lower than four years ago.
But Winfrey said she expected a smoother election overall because the city rolled out 600 new voting machines for the primary.
The new machines have larger screens that show voters and poll workers when a ballot has been accepted and counted. If there are issues with the ballot, the screen will alert the user.
The machine also has larger bins to hold every ballot, which will minimize jamming issues, officials say.
Winfrey’s office came under fire after the 2016 presidential election when a state audit found that an “abundance of human errors” caused voting irregularities at Detroit precincts. There were mismatches between ballot boxes and recorded vote totals in nearly 60 percent of the city’s precincts during a canvassing of the election results.
In its audit released in December, the State Elections Bureau “found no widespread failure of voting equipment that accounted for the breadth and depth of problems experienced in Detroit.” Mayor Mike Duggan noted all communities statewide were using the same equipment and weren’t having the same problems.
“It’s faster and it’s brand new so we don’t expect any issues,” Winfrey said last Thursday. “It’s just like a new car, everything is working, everything is new and improved.”
The counting of votes is also expected to be more efficient because the machines will transmit results directly to the elections headquarters.
Detroiter Bill McIntyre said he voted in Tuesday’s primary at 8 a.m. at his precinct at the River House Apartments where he lives.
“I was the 17th voter,” he said. “That’s a disgusting display of apathy.”
He said he hopes more people turn up to vote.
“Just remember in North Korea there’s only one guy who gets a vote,” he said. “This is a democracy and it only works if you participate in it.”
Six precincts worth of Detroiters vote at Bates Academy, on the 19700 block of Wyoming. Most reported low turnout as of early Thursday afternoon, and all said they had no issues.
As of 1:45 p.m., there had been fewer than 50 voters at Precinct 223; 87 at Precinct 257 and about 130 at three other precincts in the region.
Jackie Covington, chairperson at Precinct 223, said the low turnout was “very disappointing.”
"When I was 18, I couldn't wait to vote," said Covington, 60. While elderly voters showed up at the polls, the younger generation had not, Covington said.
"We're not raising children to see how important this is," Covington said, who added that the voting process itself was “going pretty smoothly.”
Detroit Mike Duggan, facing seven primary challengers, said Tuesday his administration will focus on expanding the city’s recovery to its neighborhoods.
“For 60 years, businesses have left the city, but over the last four years, we’ve turned it around,” he said Tuesday after casting his ballot at his precinct at River House Apartments on Detroit’s east side. He was joined by his wife, Lori, and son, Patrick.
The mayor said if he’s re-elected, “I’m going to do what I said I was going to do when I started: Make sure the recovery reaches every Detroiter.”
Duggan also said he’s anxious to see the election results.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “It’s bee four years and tonight I’m going to get a report card from the people who hired me.”