These days, the Detroit City Clerk’s office is busy preparing for the local primary election on Tuesday, August 3, followed by the general election on Tuesday, November 2. For Janice M. Winfrey, she knows all eyes will once again be focused on her and her office’s task of overseeing the city’s elections with efficiency, integrity, and transparency. Winfrey, sworn in as City Clerk in January 2005, wouldn’t have it any other way, as she is seeking re-election as City Clerk.
Since taking office, Winfrey has had her share of critics and supporters. The critics point to her questionable performances and missteps during elections that have drawn national attention, including inaccurate counting of absentee ballots, counting discrepancies pertaining to recounts, reconciling the number of ballots with the poll books, and equipment failure.
Winfrey’s supporters point to her accomplishments, such as working with local groups, organizations, churches, nonprofits, and other entities to increase voter turnout, especially in the 2020 Presidential Election. In addition, supporters credit her with the implementation of five new voting systems in the city and the introduction of BallotTrax to track the status and whereabouts of every absentee ballot during the election process.
Nevertheless, whether her performances as City Clerk have been criticized or lauded, Winfrey continues to seek better ways to improve elections.
“After each election, the Department of Elections conducts a department-wide assessment to determine what went well and areas that require improvement,” Winfrey wrote in her questionnaire to the Michigan Chronicle’s Editorial Board. “As such, the absentee voting operation has been revisited to improve the accuracy of Counting Boards to improve balancing and a more accurate product that is, if requested, re-countable. Consequentially, we are anticipating a more accurate outcome for the Municipal Primary and all elections moving forward. Also, the Department has invested in new technology that promotes a balanced counting board before Election Day. Daily, staff verifies that all counting boards are balanced leading up to the Primary.”
In the Tuesday, August 3 primary election, Winfrey will face challenges from three candidates who want to unseat her: Denzel McCampbell, Beverly Kindle-Walker, and Michael Ri’chard.
In questionnaires sent by the Chronicle’s Editorial Board to the candidates, all responded.
McCampbell vows to work on the front end to make sure every poll worker is robustly trained, partner with other Wayne County communities and the County Government to speed up absentee vote counting, better educate city voters against attempts by the GOP to restrict Black voters in Detroit, and pushback against all disinformation to persuade people against voting.
Kindle-Walker pledges to institute more training consistent with the requirements for elections, perform regular audits of the entire election process, put proper checks in place to avoid human errors, do a better job than the current clerk at reconciling ballots cast with the poll books, lead election workers who are committed to delivering clean, efficient and transparent elections, increase voter education and motivation, and assure that the Qualified Voter List is reconciled to remove verifiable voters who are no longer qualified to vote in Detroit for whatever reason.
Michael Ri’chard vows to make sure all poll workers are adequately trained, facilitate better methods of educating voters about the entire election process, stand firm for voter protection and not voter suppression, assure that Detroit has a professionally trained and operated Department of Elections, restore voter trust to ensure honest and fair elections each time, and ensure that the City Clerk’s office maintains fiscal accountability.
While the three candidates have solid platforms and ideas of running the City Clerk’s office, the Michigan Chronicle is endorsing the incumbent Janice M. Winfrey to continue in her role as city clerk.
The Chronicle believes that Winfrey has advanced the office to better oversee city elections and other functions better effectively, efficiently, and transparently. The Chronicle believes that Detroiters need an experienced City Clerk to fight the intentions of GOP lawmakers in the state who want to pass draconian bills and legislation aimed at suppressing Black voters in the city.
“The Republican Party’s national agenda is to suppress votes in urban communities throughout our nation, Winfrey wrote in her questionnaire to the Chronicle. “In Michigan, 39 of these laws have been introduced by the Republican-controlled state senate. I, along with Detroit’s administration and legislative body, have already penned our response to these laws and the impact they will have on Detroit voters. I will continue to tirelessly fight against these bills and communicate with the state legislature, Secretary of State’s office, and the Governor’s office. In the event these bills become law, I will continue to find creative methods to guarantee that no Detroit voter is disenfranchised.”
The Chronicle is encouraged that the office of Detroit City Clerk, under Janice M. Winfrey, has teamed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, under Jocelyn Benson, to form a one-two punch that will help ensure efficient elections, especially in this time of GOP’ shenanigans to change voting laws and use other tactics to disenfranchise voters of color.
“I am grateful for the relationship that has been nurtured between the Department of Elections and the Secretary of State’s Office,” said Winfrey. “Partnerships are critical to running smooth, secure elections, and the additional staff, resources, and support from the city, county, and state will further strengthen our election system. At the top of each election cycle (federal, state, and municipal), my office schedules a meeting with the Bureau to discuss the operation of elections, as to what the Department’s plans are in implementing new technology, training methods, and procedures. We also discuss any potential challenges anticipated for the cycle and our plan on how to handle them.”
Nevertheless, there’s no way around it that Janice Winfrey has made mistakes in the past, which she has acknowledged. However, there has been improvement in training poll workers, processing voters, better use of equipment and technology, and better problem-solving. With the ongoing partnership with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, we believe Detroit’s elections will be more efficient and transparent.
The Michigan Chronicle believes that in the face of the bold attempts of the GOP lawmakers in Michigan to disenfranchise Black and Brown voters, Detroiters need an experienced and savvy fighter to safeguard our right to vote, free of suppression. We need a City Clerk that can evolve to reflect new and bolder ways to ensure Detroit voters the best voting experiences possible. The Michigan Chronicle believes of the candidates running for City Clerk, Janice M. Winfrey is the best choice with the best experience for Detroit voters to trust.