Janice Winfrey on microphone
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey addresses reporters at a Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, press conference at the city’s Central Counting Board in Huntington Place. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey expects under a third of all registered voters will cast a ballot in the Nov. 8 election, a steep drop from the 41% of voters who participated in the 2018 midterms. 

The lower turnout figure is “not what we wanted,” Winfrey said. She delivered the numbers during a press conference Thursday at Detroit’s absentee processing center at Huntington Place, reporting roughly half of the city’s votes will be sent through mail-in ballots. 

Detroit is home to 508,000 registered voters, who each received a sample ballot outlining their choices in statewide races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, and local races for congressional and legislative seats, school board races, judges and other contests.


The clerk said 83,000 absentee ballots have been delivered to voters and she expects between 75,000 and 78,000 completed ballots will be turned in before polls close on Tuesday. Voters can check the status of their absentee ballots through an online tool. 

An absentee ballot drop box was photographed outside the Butzel Family Recreation Center on Detroit’s east side on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Detroiters can deliver their ballots to the clerk by visiting one of the city’s 13 satellite voting centers or any of Detroit’s seven drop box sites. Absentee ballots must be received by the clerk before 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Drop boxes are monitored 24/7 by surveillance cameras to ensure the ballots are safe and secure. 

Voters can register in-person at the clerk’s office and vote on the spot on Election Day before the polls close at 8 p.m. City voters also can pick up an absentee ballot by visiting an early voting center before 4 p.m. on Nov. 7. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and his wife took advantage of state’s early voting laws to cast their absentee ballots Thursday at Butzel Family Recreation Center. The mayor said he supported Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign for a second four-year term, but declined to say who else he voted for. 

“You don’t have to wait until Tuesday (Election Day) anymore. I wanted to come out and make sure everyone in the city understands that it was an easy process,” he said. “We were in and out in less than 10 minutes and there were no lines. We have a lot at stake in the city of Detroit and I hope everybody gets out and votes early.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan fills out an absentee ballot Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at a satellite voting center in the Butzel Family Recreation Center in Detroit, Mich. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Winfrey said 4,000 poll workers have been trained to process absentee ballots. Roughly 150 will be stationed at the Central Counting Board in downtown Detroit. 

Detroit will pre-process absentee ballots that were already turned in on Sunday and Monday, giving poll workers a “head start” on tabulating the votes on Election Day. Pre-processing allows clerks in cities with more than 10,000 residents to open the mail-in envelope, check the ballot number and record a voter’s name in Detroit’s electronic poll book, while the ballot itself remains contained in a secrecy sleeve until Election Day. 

“On Tuesday morning, when the poll workers come in, they’ll grab those ballots, remove them from their ballot return envelope, remove the stubs, and then stack them so that they can be delivered to our tabulators so that they can begin to be counted,” said Daniel Baxter, who oversees absentee ballot processing in Detroit. “The law stipulates that we cannot produce results until after 8 p.m. on election night. So after eight o’clock, we’ll upload those results, deliver them to the Department of Elections, where you will have an opportunity to get some preliminary numbers concerning absentee voting results.”

Memory cards will be hand-delivered to the Department of Elections and uploaded via phone lines to the Wayne County Bureau of Elections on Tuesday night. Winfrey said returns should begin being posted after 9 p.m., an hour after polls close.

Baxter said Detroit is confident the process will go smoothly, addressing concerns about disruptions to the processing of absentee ballots in the 2020 election. The city will employ security at the Central Counting Board and has been in conversations with the Michigan Secretary of State and Attorney General and Detroit Police Department. 

Detroit Election Administrator Daniel Baxter addresses reporters at a Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, press conference at the city’s Central Counting Board in Huntington Place. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

“We have a foolproof plan in place to ensure every poll worker, every challenger and every person coming in here on Election Day is safe and feels comfortable enough to effectively perform,” Baxter said. “This is a transparent process.”

Baxter lamented a court ruling allowing poll challengers to bring smartphones and laptops inside the absentee counting boards, saying it could allow bad actors to drum up false claims of voter fraud.

Republican secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo filed a lawsuit last week asking for a court order to block absentee ballots submitted by mail or at drop boxes in Detroit. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent Detroit from using its absentee counting board and instead count all absentee ballots in precincts alongside in-person votes. Duggan last week said the lawsuit seeks to “cancel the votes of the city of Detroit” during a campaign rally featuring former President Barack Obama.

Duggan said the city stands ready to “aggressively” defend against potential lawsuits. The mayor said Detroit has a strong track record on that front – five legal challenges in the 2020 election were dismissed. 

“There are folks who are doing everything they can to keep Detroiters’ votes from counting,” Duggan said. “You can do one thing to make sure your vote counts: Show up at the polls. We have great lawyers and we’ll do just fine, but we really need the residents of the city to take a look at what’s happening in Michigan and participate.”

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  1. Sad isn’t it?
    The Republicans are going to do their worst to deny the right of Detroiters to vote. But the vast majority of them will have already denied it to themselves.

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