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Detroit city clerk: Move to disqualify votes "smacks democracy right in the face"

City of Detroit

The Detroit city clerk is dropping responsibility for Detroit’s mayoral primary debacle squarely in Wayne County’s lap.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers declined to certify the election results Tuesday.

Discrepancies between how some poll workers tallied votes on precinct worksheets put almost 20,000 votes for write-in candidate Mike Duggan in jeopardy.

Based on unofficial results, Duggan won the primary handily over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. But discounting those votes would have made Napoleon the winner.

Winfrey said she was “taken aback” by the board’s action, which was based on a legal opinion from an assistant Wayne County corporation counsel.

She maintained that if there were any doubts about the tally, the Wayne County clerk should have alerted her office.

“Information could have been easily verified by simply hand-counting the ballots,” said Winfrey. “This is common practice, and it removes any doubt. They did not do that.”

Winfrey added that members of her staff were present throughout the canvassing process, but no one ever brought up the issue until the certification deadline. And regardless of what shorthand notation was used to mark “worksheets,” she argued the votes should count.

“It is disturbing that one would attempt to disqualify any vote that is cast by the people, as it smacks democracy right in the face,” Winfrey said. She defended her department, and said any other questions about the snafu should go to Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett.

Garrett’s office did not respond to requests for an interview Wednesday.

It appears the state agrees with Winfreyon the disputed votes. The state board of canvassers is now stepping in to count the votes that Wayne County moved to disqualify.

Regardless of the outcome, there’s no dispute that Duggan and Napoleon finished as the top two in the primary, and will face off in the November general election.

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.
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