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Pastors accuse county officials of trying to 'bully' Flint over handling of elections

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A letter is fueling a dispute over how the city of Flint handles elections.

After the August primary, Genesee County Election Supervisor Doreen Fulcher sent a letter to Flint City ClerkInez Brownoutlining problems with how the city processed votes. The letter was sent from County Clerk John Gleason’s office. 

Nineteen issues are raised in the letter, including unsealed ballot containers, uncounted write-in votes, problems sorting absentee ballots, and staffing issues.

But now a group of Flint pastors and city officials accuse the county of trying to “bully” the clerk’s office and influence Flint city elections.

Rev. Chris Martin, with Flint Unity Coalition of Pastors, calls the letter “demeaning.”

“It was discouraging....and was disrespectful to the wonderful staff that works so hard every day to make sure that the elections in the city of Flint are done above board and beyond reproach,” says Martin.

The Flint City Clerk’s office has had issues with the handling of city elections in the past. 

In 2015, the city clerk’s office gave candidates the wrong filing deadline date to qualify for Flint’s mayor’s race. Because of the date mix-up, no one qualified to run in the primary. The state legislature had to approve a change in the law to fix the problem.

Earlier this summer, the American Civil Liberties Union took the Flint city clerk’s office to court. The ACLU claimed the clerk’s office was failing to process thousands of absentee ballot requests fast enough to give voters a chance to take part in the August primary. A judge ordered Clerk Inez Brown to clear the backlog before the primary.   

Genesee County Clerk John Gleason says the accusations against him and other county officials by Brown’s supporters are misplaced.

“We should start by fixing the problem...not fixing the blame,” says Gleason. 

During a meeting Monday night, Flint City Clerk Inez Brown told the Flint city council she plans to double the number of staffers counting absentee ballots and increase training for election workers.  

Brown says she also plans to open up her office to voters for more hours this fall. 

“So that the voters can come in and vote over the counter once we receive the ballots,” says Brown.

Flint was not alone with having problems during the August primary. 

This week, the Michigan Board of Canvassers voted to require theSecretary of Stateto exercise supervisory control over November’s election in Detroit.The city had numerous problems tabulating votes in the August primary. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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