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Detroit City Clerk: Budget cuts "don't make sense," would compromise elections

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

But Winfrey argues that elections are different. “They made cuts without really understanding what’s involved, and the laws that are required, that we follow, in order to administer an election,” she told the Council.

“Given what was allocated to us, the budget cuts just don’t make sense. We wouldn’t be able to administer the election in the spirit it should be administered in.”

Winfrey says it’s especially bad timing to administer such steep cuts in a Presidential election year. She estimates voter turnout in Detroit will be upwards of 50%.

Bing’s proposal would slash the budget specifically for the Presidential election almost in half, from $1.2 million to $737,000.

City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown expressed frustration with how Bing has proposed trimming the budget.

“It really appears that cuts were made across the board, without any regard or very much regard for restructuring a department, or really understanding what the legal obligations or mandates would be,” Brown said.

Elections officials hope they can convince city and state officials to restore some money to the final budget.

Winfrey says she's contacted Secretary of State Ruth Johnson about the issue, and Johnson "supports our stand." But it's unclear what, if any, state resources might be available to supplement Detroit's elections budget.


Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.