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Followup: Detroit Clerk Cites Military Voters, Cost in Response to Absentee Ballot Claims

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[Image courtesy of flickr user cutedtownboi]

Yesterday's post focused on a court order for Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey to appear and explain why absentee ballots for November's general election had been sent without formal authorization by the city election commission.

At that hearing, the clerk argued that she not only had the authority to send the ballots but that they were necessary to meet the needs of military voters. According to the Detroit Free Press:

Winfrey explained that she started mailing out the bulk of the 30,000 absentee ballots on Friday. She said the commission approved the names on the ballots prior to the primary in August, and she began printing them around Sept. 17 to ensure those in the military received them in time to vote ...

[She] said she's authorized to mail the ballots as clerk and chair of the commission, comparing the printing and mailing process to routine duties such as checking the voting machines and purging voter files.

Moreover, the court was told reprinting the ballots would both impose costs on the city to no purpose: "[Winfrey] said nothing would change on the ballots if her office was forced to mail them again, and she estimated the cost at $100,000."

The judge hearing the motion rejected the call to reprint the ballots, suggesting that a second set of ballots would do more harm than good:

Lawyer[ ] Andrew Paterson of Novi [ ] questioned whether the commission needed to meet again to ratify the absentee ballots, and he suggested that new absentee ballots would need to be mailed out.

"The whole election is at risk. It isn't simply the absentee ballots that are at risk," he said.

But [Wayne County Judge Patricia] Fresard, calling such arguments speculative, said a second set of absentee ballots would only confuse voters and she said the motion itself appeared to be putting the election at risk.

"It almost appears that you're asking me to throw out the baby with the bathwater," she said.

As a result of the hearing, Judge Fresard denied to the motion to require printing of new ballots.

For her part, Winfrey expressed frustration at the challenge, which was brought by a group including D. Etta Wilcoxon, Winfrey's opponent for Clerk in November's election:

Winfrey questioned the validity of so many legal challenges to this year's elections.

"They're frivolous, and I think the goal is to stop the process, and that's unfortunate," Winfrey said.

Wilcoxon, in court and listening from the audience, said before the hearing that she made the challenge to ensure elections are held properly.

Here's hoping that Detroit can spend the next five weeks until Election Day running the election and not arguing about it in court. Given recent events, however, there's no guarantee that's what will happen.

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