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Wayne County elections board: Detroit needs help counting absentee votes after primary errors

Detroit brought in new voting equipment for 2017 elections after rampant problems with 2016 vote.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers says Detroit needs help from the Michigan Secretary of State to make sure the November election runs smoothly.

This comes after the board found discrepancies in Detroit absentee voter precincts in the August primary.

In every voter precinct, the number of voters entered into an electronic poll book is supposed to match the number of ballots cast in that precinct. But in Detroit’s August primary, that didn’t happen in a whopping 72% of absentee ballot precincts.

Jonathan Kinloch, Vice Chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, said that’s probably the result of election worker errors—but they need to be better-trained. “We have to have trained workers who are focusing on completing the night with accurate work,” Kinloch said.

Kinloch and his fellow board members have sent a resolution to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, asking her to “appoint a monitor to supervise the training and administration of the City of Detroit, Absentee Voter Counting Boards in the November 2020 General Election.”

The board also calls on Benson to “request an investigation be conducted by the State Department of Elections into the training and processes used by the City of Detroit in the 2020 August Primary Election.”

In a shortened meeting on Friday, state board of canvassers blasted Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s handling of the primary, and at least one questioned whether the state should step in to help handle the November vote, according to the Detroit News.The city had similar troubles reconciling votes at many precincts during the November 2016 election, but a state auditfound those discrepancies were the result of "human error."

Kinloch said he’s confident that Detroit’s primary election results are correct. But he said that under Michigan law, precincts with imbalanced results aren’t eligible to be recounted, which would be a problem in closely-contested races. With a further surge in absentee ballots expected in November, Kinloch said the city simply needs to get it right.

Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Benson’s office, said via email that the “Bureau of Elections will work with the City of Detroit to identify any errors that may have occurred in the processing of absent voter ballots and to implement any needed improvements to training procedures in advance of November.”

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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