CBS Detroit – Detroit is expecting a significantly less voter turnout this election. According to the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, election officials in Detroit think voter turnout could be half of the voter turnout in 2012 and 2008 when Barrack Obama ran. However when compared to 2016 numbers, possibly slightly higher.

According to City Clerk Janice Winfrey, voter turnout could range from 45 to 50 percent. A reduction of 51% in the 2012 election and 53% less than the 2008 election.

Winfrey says returned absentee ballots are down so far. Her department has sent out 54,640 ballots and only 38,796 have been sent back. So far that’s a 71% return, but in initial estimates, they were projecting 65,000 ballots coming in. To give context, in 2012 they counted  81,000 absentee ballots, and in 2008 they had 77,000.

City of Detroit Elections director Daniel Baxter said in a press conference that this isn’t surprising. According to the Detroit News, he blames the turn-out in those election years on Obama. “As you know, the city of Detroit is predominately African-American and when President Obama ran in 2008 every person, every Detroiter felt the need to go to the polls on Election Day. Then, in 2012, we saw the same phenomenon.” Baxter added, “This election, I think that what we’re seeing right now is a lack of enthusiasm as a result of President Obama not being on the ballot.”

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According to an article by Deadline Detroit, these projected poll numbers could be explained by voters in Detroit feeling disenfranchised. While Detroit is mostly Black, many of them are Democrats and may cast votes for Biden even though they reluctantly don’t support everything on his platform. According to plumber Freddie Butler, he feels it doesn’t really make a difference who gets elected as there won’t be any measurable results that affect people like himself on the streets.

For 39-year-old Leonard Jackson, he like a lot of people are leery of politics. “Everybody’s gonna promise a lot of things, but when they promise one thing, they gotta give up another thing,” Jackson told Deadline Detroit. Also for him is the details about the candidates you learn. He’s undecided right now. When it comes to Biden, the crime bill he authored in 1994 lead to mass incarceration of Blacks. For Jackson that hits home, as many of his family have served time in prison. He also supports Trump on illegal immigration, as he feels undocumented workers could undercut his wages as a landscaper.

The recent EPIC-MRA poll puts Biden in the lead so far in Michigan. In the poll, 94% gave an 80-100 score (100 being highest) for enthusiasm for voting for Biden. EPIC-MRA lead pollster Bernie Porn thinks that number could be just about voting Trump out of office.

Winfrey says she plans on counting 165,000 absentee ballots. That estimate is down when from the projected estimate of 200,000 when she spoke on October 5. “Presently, more than 174,000 absentee ballots have been issued the city of Detroit,” she said at a Press Conference Thursday. “Approximately 156,000 absentee ballots have been mailed, 20,000 absentee ballots have been issued from the 23 satellite voting centers. And more than 35,000 Detroiters have deposited their absentee ballot in a dropbox.” reported the Detroit Free Press.

According to Baxter, 85,000 will vote across the various precincts. That would make roughly half of the eligible registered voters. For this election, it’s reported that a 50% turnout would be higher than the 48% in 2016, albeit not by much. That’s why many think Barrack Obama energized voters in Detroit in the past, and at this time it’s unclear if Biden can do the same for the traditionally Democrat city. Perhaps the reason why the former President will be campaigning with Biden on Saturday.

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Janice Winfrey said, “We expect and anticipate a 50% turnout,”. “Is that low, in my opinion? Yes. We’re looking for that other 50%. We have over half a million voters, and every voter counts. And we want every voter to show up and vote in this election.”

In the past Detroit had problems with its elections. in 2016 Time reported more than 80 voting machines didn’t work which resulted in ballot discrepancies in 59% of precincts. Back then Baxter told Time “This is not the first time” that they had problems. As tabulating machines, he said get bumped around during transport and malfunction. As many of the machines were 10 years old.

This time around absentee ballots will be counted at the TCF Center. Baxter says things will be different this time. “We’ll execute this process incrementally to make sure that every step is being executed in accordance to Michigan election law … to get this job done accurately and efficiently,” Baxter said.

Baxter says time isn’t a factor, rather than the emphasis is on accuracy and proper procedure. “We want to make sure that every voter and every ballot … has been properly processed, received, and tabulated on election day. … We’re going to take the necessary steps to guarantee that we count 100% of all of the ballots that are returned to the department of elections by 8 p.m. on election night.”

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As the Detroit Free Press reported, Baxter explained the process. “That first inspector will review those ballots,” he said. “Then, once they review it, they will enter that data into the electronic poll book. Once the information is entered into the electronic poll book, the ballot inside of the envelope will be passed to the second inspector, who will confirm that the stub number on the ballot agrees with the stub number on the ballot return envelope. After that, the ballot will be passed to inspector No. 3, who will remove the stub and then pass the ballot to inspector No. 4, who will unfold it and place it into the balance to be processed.”

Once the tabulator processes the ballot, it stores the data in memory until 8 pm when it is released. A new law in Michigan says poll workers can start processing ballots at 10 am but just cannot count them. The City of Detroit of Elections Department intends on using this, putting poll workers in three shifts. So that overworked and tired poll workers do not make errors in the process. They will also be using an e-poll book at the entral counting board at the TCF Center. They will also be scanning driver’s licenses and IDs at the polls to get people in and out faster.

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© 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Information from The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Deadline Detroit, and Time contributed to this report.

Charlie Forbes

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