Detroit’s Election Administration Remains a National Embarrassment

In this forthcoming piece on the 2016 voting wars in the U.S., I describe in some detail the debacle that was the Detroit recount, part of the (eventually abandoned) recall attempt by Jill Stein after the 2016 presidential election. The state promised it was going to get its act together, but this new story says that not much has changed:

The recount confirmed Winfrey’s win. But 33 precincts representing more than 7,000 votes couldn’t be re-tallied at all.

“It was just disheartening to see canister after canister that were deemed un-recountable, because the seals were broken, because the ballot canisters themselves were broken, or because the numbers didn’t match,” Gilchrist said.

Michigan election law doesn’t allow precincts to be recounted when the number of voters in poll books doesn’t match the number of ballots in the box.

In the case of precinct 156, from Detroit’s St. John Presbyterian Church, poll books showed that 145 voters cast ballots. But when election workers opened up the canister, there were only five ballots inside.

Detroit director of elections Daniel Baxter says those missing ballots were later found in a storage container. Still, he said the incident is “high on our radar.”

The report attributed much of the 2016 problems to human error.  They need a lot more resources towards training.

As I argue in the paper, thank goodness the 2016 election did not hinge on the results  of Michigan. There was so much incompetence there and so much angry polarization that it would have been a horrible combination.


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