Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says her office will join forces with the Detroit City Clerk’s office to oversee the city’s elections in November.
This comes after elections watchers and state officials cast doubt on the city’s ability to meet the challenges of pulling off a presidential election amid a pandemic.
“This wouldn’t be happening right now if not for the clerk’s opening the door.” — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
This year’s presidential election will be a challenge for every single local and state elections official. The pandemic and expanded ballot access means more people will be taking advantage of absentee voting than ever before, requiring sound infrastructure and unique preparation.
But those challenges are expected to be even more difficult in Detroit, where elections experience significant problems even in the most normal of times.
Listen: Is Detroit ready for the November elections?
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says her new partnership with the Detroit City Clerk’s Office to oversee November elections is truly a collaboration.
“I need to emphasize that this wouldn’t be happening right now if not for the clerk’s opening the door,” says Benson on the new joint venture. She says the partnership will focus on solving voting issues in order to put the city in the best position for November. According to Benson, this starts with recruiting and training much-needed poll workers ahead of election day.
She also says 30 new ballot drop boxes will be installed throughout the city as a result of the new initiative.
Clara Hendrickson, a Report for America Corps Member with the Detroit Free Press and PolitiFact, says the August primary saw a surge in absentee ballots. She says while other jurisdictions took measures to adapt their absentee ballot envelopes, Detroit did not.
“Voters aren’t going directly to the Department of Elections website for information on how they should vote, they go to the news for that information.” — Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press
“Detroit did not take the same steps that other jurisdictions took,” says Hendrickson. She says access to trusted information is also essential to bolstering voter confidence and securing a smooth election day. Hendrickson expressed concern over the lack of information coming from the Detroit City Clerk’s Office. “It’s unfortunate because often times voters aren’t going directly to the Department of Elections website for information on how they should vote, they go to the news for that information,” says Hendrickson.
Sharon Dolente, ACLU of Michigan Voting Rights Strategist, says that ensuring every voter’s voice is heard in November will be a unique challenge. She says it’s important to focus on proactive solutions in addressing the documented voting issues in Detroit.
The sooner voters take action, the better election day will be, says Dolente. “We could spend a lot of time talking about why this politician or this elected official or this federal agency is having this challenge, I’m more interested in giving voters the information they need,” says Dolente.