The August 3 primary is fast approaching. Get to know the candidates running for local office in your community with 101.9 FM WDET’s Candidate Guides. Surveys were distributed to candidates to complete and you can see the responses for candidates for Detroit City Clerk below.
Related Races: Detroit Mayor, City Council - At Large, City Council - District 1, City Council - District 4, City Council - District 7
Current job: Legislative Assistant to Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-District 1
Education: Master’s Certificate in Public Administration, Central Michigan University, Bachelor’s Degree-Community Development, Central Michigan University, Associate’s Degree-General Studies, Wayne County Community College
About Beverly Kindle-Walker: I was born and raised in Detroit to a two-parent union household with seven sisters on the east side of Detroit where voting had value. My parents supported then-Sen. Coleman Young for mayor in neighborhood GOTV efforts and I have been “political” ever since then. I have over 30 years in city and county government experience analyzing public policy, understanding processes and troubleshooting constituent issues. I like to reduce “processes” down to where it makes sense for the greater good.
Why are you running for Detroit Clerk? I want to restore trust in the Office of Detroit City Clerk. Essentially to protect the vote and to defend the integrity of Detroit voters. To end voter suppression in Detroit by improving the dismal record of poor voter turnout due in part to unmotivated voters. I will execute Section 3-103 in the current Detroit City Charter to force Donald Trump and the Republicans to produce their evidence of “voter fraud” in Detroit or be sued. It is put-up or shut-up time!
What are your critiques of how elections are currently administered in Detroit? The main area of the problem is in the absentee counting boards in the precincts. There are too many simple human errors that could be avoided if proper checks are in place. A 70% error rate is ridiculous. Election workers must be truly committed to the task of delivering a clean and efficient election. Each one should be encouraged to have pride in their contribution to a successful election that can stand up to a recount. In addition to performance audits, the election equipment must be regularly tested to ensure its integrity. During elections the equipment should be transported to the various polling locations at least three days prior in order to test the unit’s functionality. If a machine needs to be replaced it can be readily done before the election date.
The failure to properly process absentee ballot applications was a huge problem in the 2020 General Election. The Clerk had to be sued by the ACLU to process 70,000-plus applications that were in some sort of internal bottleneck.
Recently the Clerk made the decision to eliminate some of the satellite voting centers and ballot drop boxes that will adversely impact voters in District 4 (48224 & 48236) and voters who rely on public transportation. There is only one Satellite Voting Center and drop box in the entire District. The list of centers/drop boxes that the office published is erroneous because Butzel Family Center is in District 5. There is no drop box/vote center at the Rosa Parks Transit Center (imagine what Mrs. Parks would say about that!) where bus riders are already challenged in casting their votes. COVID-19 is another reason why people are choosing to vote absentee. We need to be more accommodating, not less!
What steps would you take to improve elections? Providing accurate, consistent election information to the public will be paramount. Better use of social media technology would be employed with staff dedicated to that charge. Will reconcile the Qualified Voter List in real-time so that there is no wasted effort reaching out to voters who are not or should not be on the QVL. Those who are verifiably no longer a qualified voter due to death, non-voting history or have moved should be removed. There is alleged to be over 500,000 registered voters on the QVL ,which is difficult to be believe considering that the population in Detroit is 675,000. Will utilize Global Positioning Systems to verify addresses of actual structures. I would also have a marketing plan to inform voters of the ease in voting following the 2018 Promote the Vote action in Michigan that now allows same-day registration/voting; absentee voting without excuse and expanded use of ballot drop boxes among other issues. I would like to revamp civic involvement in government opportunities in the public, private and charter high schools so that graduating students can make the connection sooner on the importance of voting.
“I would like to revamp civic involvement in government opportunities in the public, private and charter high schools so that graduating students can make the connection sooner on the importance of voting.” —Beverly Kindle-Walker
What laws would you like to see passed by state legislators to improve local elections? New legislation should be advocated for which could assist in the pre-processing of absentee ballots without actually counting the votes before the election date. The time allotted for the processing and counting of absentee ballots needs to be extended to help ensure efficient elections in the State of Michigan.
Also the newly proposed City of Detroit Charter Revision has some interesting nuances relating the Detroit Election Commission which will eliminate the glaring conflict of interest with elected officials such as the Clerk and Detroit City Council President who make up the current three-member Election Commission. That change would eliminate the Clerk from freestyling the agenda.
How do you plan to recruit qualified election workers? Establishing an internship-type program with area colleges and universities in their Political Science or Social Science disciplines whereby students could earn credits and stipends. Also would make connections with various retirement organizations such as AARP, Detroit Area on Aging, City of Detroit Retirees, SCORE, and other retired union members who have very active members that may encouraged to join the team of election workers.
I also plan to encourage more participation in citizens becoming elected Precinct Delegates to their political parties’ convention. Precinct Delegates could play an integral role in sharing election information with their peer neighbors. Currently there are hundreds of vacant delegate seats across the City.
City clerks also manage records. What changes would you take to improve record-keeping for your city? There are other areas of responsibilities that the Clerk has as it relates to serving as the Clerk to the Detroit City Council. One thing in this area would be to improve the turnaround time for providing meeting transcripts to the public. I think the Clerk’s office could make available the Closed Caption information as an informal transcript of the various committee meetings for immediate reference to the public. Plans will be in the works to gain control over the Detroit City Clerk’s website from the City of Detroit website. Will seek airtime on Channel 10 in an effort to share public information.
Current job: Elected Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner and Communications Director for Rep. Rashida Tlaib
Education: Michigan State University, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), General Management & Political Science
About Denzel Anton McCampbell: I am a Detroit native, born and raised on Detroit’s east side, living on the west side now. For the last decade or so, I’ve been doing election protection and voting rights organizing and community organizing around water affordability … and a whole host of other issues. Most recently I served as Communications Director for Rep. Rashida Tlaib and, of course, I’ve been working as a Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner on the revised charter, which is also Proposal P.
Why are you running for Detroit Clerk? I’m running for Detroit City Clerk because we need to transform how we do civic education in the city of Detroit. We also need to ensure that we have fair accessible elections in the city of Detroit. I run into folks all the time on the campaign trail and they’re telling me that they didn’t even know we have an election on August 3, and that’s a function of the Detroit City Clerk’s office. We need to ensure that we’re getting timely, repetitive, accurate information out to the people about elections, our governmental officials, and how folks can be engaged in our city government. When folks are thinking about the Detroit City Clerk’s office, no matter what issues that you care about, we have to ensure that the foundation is there for civic engagement and for election administration, because if we don’t fix that, if we don’t amp up civic participation or voter participation, we will not see the movement on critical issues that we have across the city. That’s why I’m running for Detroit City Clerk, so that we can show up those issues and have civic engagement be a central part of our City Clerk’s office, and that we have someone that’s in the community so that you know who your city clerk is, that you feel that they are accessible, and that you’re getting the information that you need.
“We have to ensure that the foundation is there for civic engagement and for election administration, because if we don’t fix that, if we don’t amp up civic participation or voter participation, we will not see the movement on critical issues that we have across the city.” —Denzel Anton McCampbell
What are your critiques of how elections are currently administered in Detroit? We’re not getting the information out to folks about elections: Who’s on a ballot? What’s on the ballot? How can you vote safely? Which ways can you be engaged? But also, beyond that is ensuring that we have poll worker training that’s robust, that folks know what the election law is and that they know what’s in their election manual. So if you’re eligible to vote, you’re absolutely voting a regular ballot. I’ve been doing election protection for the last decade and time and time again, I hear from voters who say I was turned away for not having an ID. Well, you don’t need an ID in the state of Michigan to vote, you can sign the affidavit. We need to make sure that our poll workers are trained to know that. And those are things, when we talk about election protection and election administration, that we need to have in the Detroit City Clerk’s office.
What steps would you take to improve elections? So first and foremost, we’re going to make sure that we have robust communication using TV, radio, digital ads and mail door to door. I want to create a program where folks are going door to door to engage with folks around elections and our city government, but also, ensuring that every poll worker has that robust training, and that we’re doing this throughout the year. And when we talk about election administration, on day one, I want to do a complete audit of all polling locations to make sure that they’re accessible to everyone and that they’re set up in the most efficient way so that we don’t have long lines. It’s all about their overall experience, from the education standpoint to the point that folks are putting their ballot to the tabulator, we’re ensuring that our clerical standards are there, so that our precincts are balanced so that folks can have their votes recounted if it comes to that.
What laws would you like to see passed by state legislators to improve local elections? I talked about the recount issue, and not only do we have to make sure that we have accurate information and that our precincts are balanced on the front end, but the state legislators should also take a look at the law that prevents folks from recounting a precinct. If it’s out of balance, a clerk’s office should be able to recount that. Beyond that, when we talk about accessibility, I would advocate that we don’t do this voter suppression effort that we saw in Lansing, and actually flip it around to ensure that we are improving accessibility. Folks overwhelmingly supported Prop 3 in 2018. What that tells me in the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit is people want to increase access to the ballot box. I’d also like to think about ways to make absentee ballot and mail voting easier and more widespread. Finally, how can we make early voting even more widespread and assure that our election officials have the funding to ensure that they can have early voting, even beyond what they’re doing now?
How do you plan to recruit qualified election workers? I want to create a program called the Civic Education Core. And this will have folks in communities from each district that are going door to door to talk about the election and to talk about government, but also asking, do you want to be a part of the civic education process? So going into schools, going into neighborhoods, explaining to folks that this is a process that we can ensure that our neighbors can and will vote in and invite them into that so that we can have a large core of folks engaged in our elections and being poll workers.
City clerks also manage records. What changes would you take to improve record-keeping for your city? In the city of Detroit as a record keeper, and as a clerk of the Council, the Detroit City Clerk’s Office should be doing more to get, for example, the voting records of the City Council members out to the public. Right now, you have to call down to the clerk’s office to get that. What I want to do is have the information readily available online, being displayed on the city cable channels, but also ensuring that we have a very quick process so folks can get it in the mail. I’m talking about going door to door, because it’s all about accountability and transparency. And we’re not seeing that right now. You shouldn’t have to call it down to get the voting record, you should get that by one click. I also want to make sure that for all the records that we can have online that we have a simple process that folks can engage in. If you don’t have access to the internet, having a simple process that you can call down and say OK, we’re going to get that out to you immediately … so that you don’t have to wait for us to mail it to you. But also making sure that when you do make that call, your calls are being answered. I think that’s the key component. And I want to make sure that we’re delivering a service as city clerk.
Current job: Legislative Aide, Teacher
Education: Northeastern High School, Central State University, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Political Science and Government, Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Detroit
About Michael Ri’Chard: My name is Michael Stephen Ri’chard. I was born and raised in the city of Detroit. Upon graduating from Central State, I went to Blue Cross Blue Shield for 18 years where I was a trainer. Upon completion of 18 years, I then went to work for the city of Detroit for 25 years. I worked in the Department of Elections as a senior training specialist where it was my job to hire and train the poll workers to ensure that they understood how elections are run. I also worked at Cobo Hall, where I served on the counting board where I helped supervise. For the last 13 years, I’ve taught political science at Wayne County Community College. My motto is: Experience counts, and so should your vote. I want to stand for community, community involvement and education.
Why are you running for Detroit Clerk? I’m running for city clerk because I spent six and a half years under the former clerk, Jackie Currie, and she trained me and gave me all of the information I needed to become clerk. For several years, I also worked as a community liaison for Rep. John Conyers, and he left me a game plan. We need to make a lot of changes in the clerk’s office, and right now, the two major changes are voter education and training. We need the poll workers training. I am the only candidate that’s qualified to train poll workers, because I was certified by the state of Michigan as a trainer for elections.
What are your critiques of how elections are currently administered in Detroit? I want to bring back honest and fair elections. The people in Detroit need to know when elections are, they don’t need to see a 12-foot picture of you, and at the bottom, “Elections are coming up.” There’s a saying in Detroit that if you are leading at 11 o’clock on election night by 20,000 votes, you’re going to wake up the next morning and you’re going to find out that you lost by 5,000 votes. So we need to have honest and fair elections, we need to have accuracy. People need to have faith in the election system, and once people have faith in the election system, I think elections will run more smoothly.
“So we need to have honest and fair elections, we need to have accuracy. People need to have faith in the election system, and once people have faith in the election system, I think elections will run more smoothly.” —Michael Ri’Chard
What steps would you take to improve elections? I would start voter education from high school and have 16-year-olds work at the polls on Election Day so they understand the process. Then at 17 and a half, they can register to vote and at 18, they can vote. I would also like to work with Detroit Public Schools to bring back civics and government. I would like to have graduates of high school get a diploma in one hand and a voter registration card in another hand. We are also forgetting about our seniors. We need to have senior education where ambassadors go to senior citizen centers and explain that elections are coming up. I would have forums all over the city to let people know what is on the ballot to understand propositions. If you vote one way, this is the answer. If you vote another way, this is the answer. I want to make it clear, clean and simple for people to understand so that everybody will vote.
What laws would you like to see passed by state legislators to improve local elections? I attended the NAACP rally in Lansing about the 39 different proposals that the Republican Party wants to put out, and what I’d like to do is explain to all the parties that voter elections should be fair. We need voter participation, more than voter suppression. And I will explain to them that certain laws that they’re trying to pass are stopping people from voting or hurting them from voting. We need to make it easier to vote and not harder.
How do you plan to recruit qualified election workers? I would go to union halls, I would go to civic organizations, I would go to churches, fraternities and sororities, and I would say, hey, we need your people to participate in the voter process. We need your people as poll workers. We need your church members as poll workers. I would go out into the community. We need 100% community involvement from businesses, churches, schools, from everybody.
City clerks also manage records. What changes would you take to improve record-keeping for your city? The city clerk is basically the clerk and or secretary for city business, so I would make those records that are being kept easy to be accessed, not paper. It has to be computerized so people access it. People need to know: When is the next city council meeting? How do I attend? What’s on the agenda? We want to make those records easily accessible for people so that they won’t be spending two hours downtown in the clerk’s office trying to get certain records. I would like to make it more transparent, easy to access, and make sure that people know exactly what my job is, what my duties are, and how I can help you. Customer service is very important, and I’ve taught customer service and trained customer service, so my employees would be on top of their game.
Current job: Detroit City Clerk
Education: Cass Technical High School, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University
About Janice Winfrey: As a clerk, my job, my responsibility, is to ensure that the voters know this Election Day and to make sure they know where to vote. I’m a nonpartisan clerk, I count every ballot, every time, no matter who’s on it. I get one vote like everybody else. I’ll stand up and I’ll fight for this city, as long as the citizens want me to.
Why are you running for Detroit Clerk? Well, I’m the sitting clerk. And as such, I know what’s come before us. I know that when the state flipped, a lot of people weren’t happy about it. And so we’ve got all these voter suppression bills coming up. And people think the governor is just going to veto them out? Well, it’s not that easy. I have the knowledge, the experience, the resources, the relationships to get through these bills, so that Detroiters are not affected negatively, by what may or may not happen.
What are your critiques of how elections are currently administered in Detroit? Detroit will always be challenged just because of the demographics of Detroit. A lot of people think that we’re inept. And they know that we carry the state. So some operatives make it look like we’re inefficient, that we don’t know what we’re doing and the like. And it’s quite the opposite. One of the only good things that came out of 2020 was the fact that all of the 143 lawsuits that the Trump administration filed against me personally, and my operation, were all thrown out. They were deemed baseless and almost criminal, because they were based on lies. And so that showed that the work that we do is quality work, no matter how some operatives may want it to appear. It’s quality work. And the other thing that came out of 2020 that was amazing is that the secretary of state did an audit of all election officials, all of our work from last year, and in Detroit, of the 173,000 absentee ballots that were cast, only 17 were out of balance.
What steps would you take to improve elections? We’ve done so much, and we’ll continue to. The fact that our citizens no longer have to put a stamp on the return ballot is something we’ve done. Drop boxes, satellite voting, making the franchise accessible to the public, that’s my greatest accomplishment. And I want to continue that. I’d like to see citizens automatically registered through the secretary of state once they apply for their license. And of course, I’m fighting, fighting, fighting these bills on a national level, local level, regional level, to ensure that our rights aren’t taken away as voters.
“The fact that our citizens no longer have to put a stamp on the return ballot is something we’ve done. Drop boxes, satellite voting, making the franchise accessible to the public, that’s my greatest accomplishment.” —Janice Winfrey
What laws would you like to see passed by state legislators to improve local elections? So at the local level, our laws need to be amended. We should be able to recount every canister, every time, period. That’s the only way you’re going to show purity of the process. We need to be able to recount every time upon request, and we need to be able to count ballots that are received on Election Day. Right now, if it’s received after 8 p.m. and the polls closed, we can’t count them if they’re received in the mail. We should be able to count those ballots if they are postmarked by Election Day. Also, it should be criminal for people to threaten our lives, threaten my employees’ lives, for doing our jobs. And so federal laws should be created to protect election administrators, not just the elected officials, but those who work the process.
How do you plan to recruit qualified election workers? We continue to recruit from high school students. When they learn the process, they begin to participate in the process, and they become better at doing what it is that we do. Our training is the best in the state, and the secretary of state will tell you that the state only requires that we train once every two years, but we train for every election every time. And we train for at least 15 hours. All of our trainers are certified teachers, retired principals, and those who know how adults learn. We know that educating the public in an urban community is difficult, sometimes at best. But our plan and our goal is to recruit those individuals that are working professional adults that are used to reading instructions and used to receiving instruction and then implementing those kinds of instructions and doing so accurately. So those are the things that I plan to do to get a better quality poll worker.
City clerks also manage records. What changes would you take to improve record-keeping for your city? At the end of 2019 we started working with a new legislative management company, and then the pandemic hit, so we’re just now getting back although all the council has been trained on it. What this system will allow you to do is publicly vote for council and to do so electronically. They’ve been giving me a little pushback on that with the old system but we’re moving forward and we have a council that has reconsidered being able to vote where you can see. Additionally, this new company will be able to upload in real time all of the actions taken by the council as opposed to us having to upload all that stuff individually.
Surveys have been edited for clarity.