LeDuff: The vote is in - incompetence wins by a landslide! - New York News

LeDuff: The vote is in - incompetence wins by a landslide!

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Off the Chain Opinion
By Charlie LeDuff

DETROIT – When the government cannot guarantee something as elemental as a person's vote, that government becomes illegitimate.

That's where we're at in Detroit after the spectacle perpetrated by the office of the City Clerk Janice Winfrey and by extension the Board of Elections. A banana republic.

Missing hash marks, tardy absentee ballots, candidates left off the ballots. 108 percent of the adult population registered to vote and the mysterious retirement of the director of the board of elections.

The aftermath of the Detroit primary this month devolved into such a sitcom that the write-in ballots had to be sent to Lansing for a proper counting, and now a judge up there is thinking of kicking the whole thing to the feds. Sheesh.

It's enough to launch a thousand conspiracy theories – see Tom Barrow. And conspiracy theories – like military juntas - do little to encourage democracy.

Instead of theories, I like to deal in facts. So along with veteran pollster and politico Steve Hood, I obtained the city's 2013 registered voters list, the state of Michigan's 2013 registered voter list and the city's absentee voter file from the 2013 mayoral primary. We ran the lists through a computer program and cross referenced the names, address and dates of birth. Then I got in my car and knocked on some random doors.

Now I am no election expert. I don't have the time to do a thorough job -- I will leave that to the professionals. But if what we found on the face of things is any indication, then somebody needs to take a fire hose to Winfrey's office and clean it out. The Iraqi election gave me more encouragement. At least voters there could be verified with purple ink-stained fingers.

To begin: the state voter id numbers are consistent. A voter, his registration and voting history can be tracked. On the other hand, the city's voter id numbers often don't match the state's -- as they should – and voting spreadsheets cannot link to each other.

 "There is an obvious lack of quality control," Hood said. "It just reeks of incompetence at the very least."

According to an analysis of city and state records, there were more than 45 people over the age of 100 years who may have voted in the primary by absentee ballot.

One of them is Nina Davis, a spry 113-year-old. But a visit to Ms. Davis' door on the west side proved that there was no 113-year-old living there. Rather, there was  Nina Davis, a veritable teenager at 98-years-old, who first voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"They sent us two absentee ballots," said her daughter Beverly Davis. "We filled out one and threw away the other."

So Ms. Davis was not disenfranchised, she was over-enfranchised.

Then there is 90-year-old Mary Kelly. She mailed in an application for an absentee ballot. One week before the election she received not a ballot, but another application for a ballot.  "I called up down there and they said they never received the application," said her godson, Raymond Stephen. "So I don't know why they'd send a second application. They couldn't explain."

Ms. Kelly never received her ballot to vote.

"I don't have any confidence in the system at all," said Mr. Stephen. " We need a federal monitor."

 I could go on, but you get the point. Why should we be surprised that the vote tally may be suspect in a city where we can't count the money?

How much longer do you expect a Detroiter to keep the faith? Already, the city is ruled not by an elected official but a state-appointed financial autocrat.

I agree with Mr. Stephen --  108 percent. We need an outsider to monitor the general election in November since the clerk seems to be asleep at the wheel, counting sheep. 

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