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State Says All Votes In Detroit Mayoral Primary Must Be Counted

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Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon during happier times -- June, 2013. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon during happier times — June, 2013. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

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DETROIT (WWJ) - It looks like the state will go back in and count some 18,000 votes that were disqualified from the Detroit mayoral primary.

This comes after the Wayne County Board of Canvassers on Tuesday ruled poll workers at some precincts did not properly count the questionable votes using the so-called “hash mark method.”

Based on that, the board refused to certify the election.

Michigan Elections Director Christopher Thomas said the issue of how the votes were tabulated isn’t significant and that Wayne County should have gone back in and re-tabulated them if there was a question instead of throwing out the votes.

“Any error of an elections official shouldn’t disfranchise a voter,” Thomas said. “So the system is set up for the opportunity of the canvassing board — if they believe there are votes that have not been counted, ballots that have not been counted — to do that during the canvass.”

Thomas added, however, that he “doesn’t see this as a major election failure by any means.”

“There’s enough in the law that I think the sense of showing your work — how you got the number that you report — is to be part of the record … So I don’t fault Wayne County for questioning that,” Thomas said, adding that he sees no reason to go back and count all the ballots.

The results of the state count could change who actually received the most votes: Mike Duggan or Benny Napoleon. Regardless, the two will face off in the November general election.

Thomas said the state will investigate whether the questionable votes should be retabulated. He said the count would take about a day and a half.

So, what went wrong?

D’etta Wilcoxon, who is running for City Clerk, claims current clerk Janice Winfrey brought in new, improperly trained poll workers.

“Longtime poll workers — some of them [who] had worked for the city of Detroit, 10, 20, 30 years — were left out in the cold,” WIlcoxon told WWJ’s Charlie Langton.

Winfrey, who said she supports the work done by her staff, did voice concern over the actions by the county Board of Canvassers whose job it is, she says, is to perfect election returns.

“Their objective is to clarify votes, not disqualify them. If there are any doubts or issues regarding the numbers reported on the unofficial summary of votes cast,” she said. “Then the county clerk or the county director of elections should have notified me or my staff of any concerns or issues. They did not.”

Winfrey said she was taken aback when Wayne County Corporation Counsel waited until the last day of the canvas to surprise the board with concerns about the ballot count.

MORE: Board Of Canvassers Will Not Certify Primary Election Vote

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