Janice Winfrey, Detroit City Clerk, left, sits down in an interview with Digital Anchor Andre Ash in Studio 1452 recently.
The Detroit Primary is less than a week away and with candidates running for mayor, the Detroit City Council, and the Detroit City Clerk – along with the tentative Proposal P vote – there is a lot to look forward to on Tuesday, August 3.
Aside from Detroit voters who are busy getting involved in the local election process, it’s none other than Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey who will be behind the scenes that day showing up and showing others how she gets it done.
During a recent interview inside the Real Times Media (RTM) Studio 1452, Michigan Chronicle’s Digital Anchor Andre Ash interviewed Winfrey on her role in holding up her end of democracy and what people should know come Election Day.
“It seems … for anyone following Detroit elections and politics, this particular year has been very quiet around the mayoral conversations if you will,” Ash said, adding that one of the “sticky issues” on the ballot is Proposal P, which was added last minute. “What can voters expect to see when they look at that ballot on Election Day?”
Winfrey said that the short ballot is “still an important ballot” because candidates are vying for the general election come Tuesday, November 2 – but they have to progress out of the primary first.
“When voters vote for the City Council by districts the top two vote-getters move to the general election,” Ash asked to which Winfrey confirmed.
“If we only have two candidates – an incumbent and a challenger – they’re not going to make the primary. You already have your two; they are just going to have a general election,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey, a Detroit City Clerk for over 10 years, said that her high-profile position does not come without its share of issues.
Winfrey told Ash that very soon she will be speaking before Congress to address the problems she has faced, especially with this last election and the previous President Donald Trump.
“I will be talking about the challenges election administrators face and the threats and harassment that we received as a result of the 2020 election,” Winfrey said, adding that she is “defending American democracy,” which she said is the real work for a clerk or election administrator — to hold up democracy to ensure that every citizen – every elector – has a right to cast their vote in a free and fair election without being intimidated or harassed.”
She added that her goal is to ask Congress to consider making intimidation or harassment federal offenses people shouldn’t be harassed and their “lives threatened” for doing their jobs.
Winfrey also said that she plans to speak about the 140-plus lawsuits that Trump filed against her and her office citing voter fraud, in which “every single last one of them” was dismissed.
From implementing ballot drop boxes in 2018, (which Winfrey said is “here to stay”) to making voting more accessible – especially early during the pandemic – the Detroit City Clerk is equally passionate when asked by Ash about striking a balance with voter security.
Winfrey said ballots are sent out securely to voters who request them.
“Additionally, voting by mail or absentee voting is very safe — when we receive those ballots, we must check the signature that is in the qualified voter file (their driver’s license signature.) If that signature does not match, we cannot process that ballot,” Winfrey said, adding that they inform the voter to either sign personally or resign to have a new signature on file. She added that because of health reasons, sometimes people have signatures that differ from time to time, that is why they recheck to ensure accuracy.
Winfrey added that even with all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted, she can only do so much to bring people to the polls with billboards, television and radio commercials, and interviews – it’s, primarily, the candidates who bring people out to vote.
“Turnout is driven by candidates,” she said, adding that the highest voter turnout was at 56 percent in “recent years” in 1996 was the presidential race when Bill Clinton was on the ballot.
She said the turnout rate was “not good enough” but people come out when they are “eager” and excited about what’s on the ballot.
“When they want change; when they want … their voice to be magnified and heard they participate,” she said.
For more information on the Primary Election or to register to vote visit detroitmi.gov/elections.