Election Day voters lined up at the Edison school on Grand River in Detroit. (BridgeDetroit photo by Ralph Jones)

Showtime. And the final tally may not be revealed until Friday. 

Welcome to a Detroit election like no other. Nearly 166,000 absentee ballots from city voters had been received as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, state election officials said. It is predicted about 255,000 Detroiters will vote, which translates into about a 50 percent voter participation rate.


On Monday morning, a man wearing a horror-movie mask and a woman who refused to correctly wear a COVID-protection mask were booted out of TCF Center, the site of massive processing of absentee ballots. 

On Monday afternoon, there was confusion when the 23 satellite voting offices closed for the day. That caused an incident between a female voter who showed up at the Adams Butzel Recreation Complex, after 4 p.m and was told it was closed, according to the Detroit Police Department. The woman said she was pushed by a man who contends he was pushed by the woman. It’s not clear if the man was a poll worker, police said. Their names were not released. Detroit Police are investigating the incident.  

The City Clerk’s office and at least one other voting information website had posted the wrong closing time for the satellite voting offices on Monday, said Matt Friedman, spokesman for Detroit Votes 2020. 

“It was a mistake,” said Friedman in a Tuesday email to BridgeDetroit. “The 4 p.m. closing time was determined by the Clerk’s office because state law says that registered voters can’t request an absentee ballot after 4 p.m. on the day before Election Day.

“Registered voters without an absentee ballot who showed up after 4 were, I’m told, encouraged to vote at their precincts today.”

As of 9 a.m.Tuesday, two hours after polls opened, both state and city election officials said things were running smoothly at Detroit polling places. There were no reported incidents of voter harassment nor shortage of poll workers. 

The Motor City is a key Democratic bloc in a state Donald Trump won by just 10,704 votes the first time around. The Detroit turnout in the 2016 presidential election was low — 42,598 fewer votes compared to 2012. A high voter turnout in Detroit — a 50 percent rate is high by historical standards — could potentially swing the state back to blue.

City and state election officials have been on high alert for voter intimidation tactics and misinformation campaigns for months now; even before six men allegedly plotted to kidnap and assassinate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  

“I fully expect that our voters will be targeted with false information about their rights and the integrity of the voting process,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Monday.  “And that our state will be the target of misinformation shared on social media and elsewhere.

Unverified claims of things occurring will be posted on social media, circulated by some news outlets and candidates may make statements that will be proven ultimately true.”

BridgeDetroit will follow the events as they unfold.

After polls close at 8 p.m., city officials will begin to give updates on where the vote count stands. It may take until Friday for results, officials said. In the days in between, conservative challenges may emerge as poll watchers keep an eye on potential missteps in the processing and counting of voting. 

Many Detroiters and groups say enthusiasm is high compared to 2016. Read about that here and here. And Detroit’s election process has been accused of being badly-run in the past, as recent as the August primary. But the city’s election administration has undergone a major revamp and city officials say they are ready this time.  

Locally, one of the most widely watched issues is whether voters will approve or reject the city’s latest plan, Proposal N, to wipe out 16,000 blighted homes and lots. Read about that effort here.

As for now, let’s see how democracy plays out in 2020.

Louis Aguilar is BridgeDetroit’s senior reporter. He covered business and development for the Detroit News, and is a former reporter for the Washington Post.

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