When the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to certify the results of Detroit’s Aug. 6 mayoral primary Tuesday, citing irregularities in the tabulation of write-in votes, many reflexively laid the blame at City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s doorstep. Only in Detroit, Winfrey’s critics clucked, could election officials mishandle enough votes to turn what had been declared a landslide victory for write-in candidate Mike Duggan into a lopsided victory for his rival, Benny Napoleon. But by Wednesday, just 24 hours after county canvassers asked the state to conduct a recount, the evidence suggested that they and County Clerk Cathy Garrett may have grossly overreacted to minor variations in the way some Elections Department workers recorded write-in votes for Duggan.
Some tabulators, it seems, failed to use the hash-mark method prescribed in a manual distributed by the state Elections Department. Garrett and the canvassing board were appropriately diligent about noting the omission of the prescribed hash-marks, but the county’s hasty recommendation to disqualify some 20,000 presumptively valid votes because of variations in the way different poll workers recorded them struck us as absurd from the get-go — and Wednesday, state Elections Director Chris Thomas agreed.
Thomas, whose record as an honest broker in previous elections disputes is impeccable, says that there’s nothing in Michigan law authorizing the county to throw out votes just because some tabulators failed to use the prescribed hash-marks.