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Court of Appeals puts lawsuit over Detroit's August primary problems on fast track

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Voter turnout is better when we're electing a new president. The best gubernatorial turnout rate in Michigan was 60% in 1962 (based on data starting in 1948).

The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted a motion for immediate consideration in a lawsuit filed by three Detroit residents, seeking to force the Michigan Secretary of State and Michigan Elections Director to train Detroit's city clerk and its election workers.

The lawsuit was filed after serious problems occurred in the city's August primary. The count in 46% of Detroit precincts did not match the number of ballots in poll books. That means they could not have been  recounted in the event of a recount. 

Plaintiff Robert Davis says what happened shows that Detroit's City Clerk Janice Winfrey is "inept." 

The lawsuit seeks an order for the Michigan Secretary of State and State Elections Director to "advise and direct" Winfrey in the proper methods for conducting the November 3, 2020 election, and to conduct training sessions with the clerk and elections inspectors prior to the election.

Davis says there's much at stake. He notes the presidential election in Michigan in 2016 was extremely close and says it could be close this November, too. 

"Because the Republicans and the Republican president are looking for any little issue to challenge the validity of the election results," he says.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she's working on a plan to help Detroit's city clerk. 

But she says part of the problem is the state Legislature refused to update the law to help workers process a larger number of absentee ballots. Benson supported a bill that would allow workers to begin counting absentee ballots prior to Election Day.

Republican leaders in the state Legislature said that could lead to election fraud.

The expedited court schedule requires state officials to file an answer to the lawsuit by September 4, 2020, including supporting briefs and motions.

All remaining pleadings must be filed by September 9. The court says it will decide on the basis of the pleadings, without oral arguments.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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