Our editorial: State must oversee Winfrey’s operation

The Detroit News

The irony of the inability to complete a legitimate recount of the Detroit City clerk election is that the screw-ups that tainted so many ballots were among the best reasons Clerk Janice Winfrey should have been unseated in the first place.

Winfrey’s inability to manage an error-free election is disenfranchising Detroit voters.

But the chaos serves her own interests very well. Not being able to recount the tainted ballots, particularly those cast by absentee voters, thwarted a recount by her challenger in the November election, Garland Gilchrist II.

Twenty-eight percent of the precinct sample requested by Gilchrist III could not be recounted for various reasons.

In some cases, the sealed ballot boxes contained far fewer ballots than was reported in the Department of Elections official tally.

Seals were found broken or boxes were otherwise unsecured, making the ballots inside ineligible for the recount.

Similar problems occurred in Detroit in the 2016 presidential election, when a recount of Michigan was started and then stopped. That recount could not have gone reliably forward because so many ballots in Detroit were spoiled.

Winfrey can’t seem to get it right. So she shouldn’t be allowed to run another election without intense oversight.

Before the next city election, next August’s primary for state and federal offices, the state secretary of state should put Winfrey and her staff through a thorough training program.

She should be given a clear checklist of what must be done to protect the integrity of an election.

And on Election Day, the state should deploy trained workers to help assure the Detroit staff gets it right.

The right to vote is too precious to allow it to be denied through bureaucratic bungling. The 2018 election will be vital to Detroit and Michigan. City voters will be electing a new congressman, as well as helping pick a governor and other state officeholders.

The outcomes may well depend on Winfrey’s ability to do the job she sought.

We’re reluctant to suggest a state takeover of any Detroit city function by the state, given the hard feelings generated by past interventions.

But the right to vote and have your vote counted must be assured to city voters.

If Winfrey can’t do it, the state will have to step in.