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After problem-plagued November election, Detroit clerk pledges smooth primary next week

Detroit brought in new voting equipment for 2017 elections after rampant problems with 2016 vote.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Detroit precincts will have new vote tabulators for the primary.

Despite receiving unfavorable national attention for some serious problems in last November’s general election, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey pledges that Tuesday’s primary election should run smoothly.

Winfrey says a combination of new voting equipment and improved poll-worker training should help avoid the problems that plagued Detroit precincts in November.

An aborted presidential recount found that votes couldn’t be “reconciled” in more than half of all Detroit precincts,meaning that voter poll books didn’t match the number of ballots cast. 

That made those precincts legally ineligible for recount. A state auditlater found those discrepancies were attributable to “human error,” not fraud.

Daniel Baxter, Detroit’s director of elections, says Winfrey’s office has revamped training to address “every aspect of that audit.”

“At some point in time, we’ve addressed all those issues,” Baxter said. "We forwarded to the state bureau of elections, and they gave us their good housekeeping seal of approval for those training practices.”

Baxter says the new voting equipment should also help avoid a repeat of November’s problems.

That equipment ensures that “ballot jamming is minimized” and the “public display [screen] will express to the voter whether that ballot was cast and counted or not,” Baxter said.

Winfrey says the equipment has already been tested several times, and will tested again at precincts on election day. She says results are also now “transmittable” from precincts, meaning the city should be able to count and report complete results much faster

“We’re hoping not later than 10:30 p.m.,” said Baxter. 

And for the first time, “Candidates, media, and interested parties may now go to our website and obtain comprehensive, real-time election night results,” Winfrey said.

Winfrey herself faces multiple opponents in a tough re-election fight, with the clerk’s race virtually guaranteed to be decided in the Democratic primary next week. She declined to comment on that race Thursday.

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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