Khary Frazier (left) of Detroit is Different convened a group of Detroiters to discuss how to increase voter turnout and how to keep residents informed on how government policies impact their lives. (Detroit is Different photo)

This month, BridgeDetroit and Detroit is Different asked Detroiters to discuss the city’s Nov. 2 election. On Tuesday, Detroiters elected a mayor, city clerk and members to City Council and the Board of Police Commissioners, and determined three ballot proposals. Yet, political observers said they weren’t expecting many people to show up at the polls this election. 

Related: Detroit students want ‘more’ from candidates for elected office

Myya Jones, who dove headfirst into city politics by running for mayor in the primary, said she believes voter education should be a focus all the time, not just during election season. After spending time canvassing Detroit, she said some residents need help understanding the district maps and the roles and responsibilities of public officials.

“A lot of education (needs to be) happening when it comes to politics, period,” said Jones.

Jones also discussed economic and other challenges many residents face and how that impacts elections.

“Folks don’t always have time to be active in politics; they are trying to figure out how to pay their bills,” said Jones. “How do we put trust back into the system that was supposed to be built for all people, and for us to have productive lifestyles, if it hasn’t been happening?” 

Brandon Jessup, a community organizer, said technology makes the opportunity for constant engagement real, and that more elected officials need to use it to leverage their work in communities.

“The digital economy has changed so much, it’s changed how we organize,” said Jessup. 

Both Jones and Jessup also questioned how the recent headlines on public corruption on the City Council have dampered election enthusiasm. 

Councilmembers Gabe Leland and Andre Spivey were forced to resign earlier this year after admitting to taking bribes. Meanwhile, on Aug. 25, Councilmembers Janee Ayers and Scott Benson’s homes and offices were raided by FBI agents. The homes of Benson’s chief of staff, Carol Banks, and Ayers’ chief of staff, Ricardo Silva, also were searched. None of the four has been charged with any crime., 

Jessup said the federal investigations and indictments have a chilling effect on the electorate.

“Black folks, specifically, poor folks, are tired of the emotional games around their politics and how they sustain life,” said Jessup. “You go ahead, give somebody a vote, three months later, you get evicted. … (Where) can you get help if you’re possibly facing eviction right now in Detroit’s District 7 (following Leland’s corruption-related resignation)? …  

“I wouldn’t have faith in that.”

For more, watch the videos below.

Citizens Beyond Voting

Family and Friends on Detroit Politics

Low Voter Turnout

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