Gilchrist raises voting issues, mulls recount

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — Garlin Gilchrist said he is considering whether to file a recount after losing to incumbent Clerk Janice Winfrey in a close race in the general election.

Gilchrist said during a news conference Wednesday that he's heard "troubling accounts" from voters and he plans to investigate.

"There are questions about yesterday's election that give us concern about the vote tallies," Gilchrist said.

One example, Gilchrist said, was a voter who said he arrived at his precinct Tuesday to vote, only to be told he already voted absentee, which he hadn't.

Gilchrist said he will decide in the next few days if he wants a recount.

"I strongly believe that Detroit voters need to know that their votes are counted and that they're counted accurately," he said.

Gilchrist said there were reports of absentee voters casting ballots and then receiving multiple ballot receipts from Winfrey's office.

Voters also voiced concerns about receiving letters requesting absentee ballot applications, and then two days later — without submitting the application — a ballot came in the mail, Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist lost to Winfrey in the general election by 1,482 votes. Unofficial election results showed Winfrey won with 50.6 percent of the vote to Gilchrist's 49.1 percent.

At one point, Gilchrist was up 54 percent to Winfrey's 45 percent.

Winfrey did not return repeated phone calls on Tuesday and Wednesday and was not at her office when The Detroit News sought her out Wednesday afternoon.

But in an interview Wednesday morning on WDET-FM (101.9), Winfrey said any recount would not change the election results.

“You’ll never find 1,400 votes," Winfrey said. “But if that’s the way they want to spend their money, they have plenty of it.”

Gilchrist said he won't be able to file for a recount until the Wayne County Board of Canvassers certifies the election. The board has 14 days to do so, officials say.

"Transparency in Detroit is worth raising money for," Gilchrist said.

Detroit Elections Director Daniel Baxter said absentee ballots caused a sudden surge in votes for Winfrey when they were counted at about 10 p.m. Tuesday as precinct results rolled in. It’s standard practice for the city to add absentee votes to the totals later in the night, Baxter said.

A breakdown of the complete unofficial results showed that Winfrey dominated the absentee vote, while Gilchrist won a majority of Election Day votes.

Winfrey had 19,967 absentee votes compared with Gilchrist’s 11,207 with all precincts reporting. Gilchrist won 37,193 votes at the polls Tuesday while Winfrey earned 29,915, according to Wayne County voting data.