Voters head to the polls on November 2 to cast their votes for local leaders, ballot proposals and more.
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 Race: Detroit Mayor, Detroit City Council
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: 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.