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Detroit election officials expect drop in voter turnout, half of voters to use absentee ballots

voting booths
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

Detroiters might not know election results before they go to bed on Election Day.

Detroit’s election officials said Thursday that the first big batch of results should be available by 9 p.m., and they're hoping to have full results tallied by 4 a.m. the following morning.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said early indications show the city's voter turnout for next Tuesday's election will fall between 28% and 33%. Voter turnout in Detroit was 41% in the last midterm election in 2018.

There are around 508,000 registered voters in the city, and they have all received sample ballots, Winfrey said.

"We have issued approximately 83,000 ballots, and we anticipate counting roughly somewhere between 75,000 and 78,000 by election night. That means a little over 50% of all ballots cast in this election will be by absentee ballot," Winfrey said. "Not where we want it, but that's what it's looking like now."

The city clerk's office said it will be preprocessing absentee ballots. Detroit did that in 2020 as well. Preprocessing lets election workers get ballots ready to count before Election Day — but they still can't start counting until polls open. Workers will begin preprocessing ballots on Sunday.

Winfrey says 4,000 poll workers have been trained to work at Detroit's 450 polling stations.

Daniel Baxter is an Election Administrator for Detroit. "We have a foolproof plan in place to ensure that every poll worker, every challenger, every person that comes in here on Election Day is safe and feels comfortable enough to effectively perform their duties," he said.

Next Tuesday's elections in Michigan will be guided by the same manual for poll challengers that was used in this year's primary elections, despite a challenge by Republican Party leaders. A state Supreme Court ruling Thursday will allow the state's guidance to remain in effect at least through Election Day.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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