A voter guide for the Nov. 2, 2021 election in Det...

A voter guide for the Nov. 2, 2021 election in Detroit

FAQ: What's on Detroiters' ballots and how to navigate any voting issues.

The polls open early Tuesday morning for voters around Michigan to cast their ballots. Are you ready to vote before they close at 8 p.m.?  Here are the details on casting your ballot and what’s on it in Detroit. 

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Absentee ballots also must be returned by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. 

Look up whether you’re registered to vote, the status of your absentee ballot and what’s on your ballot at the state’s voter information center

You can also find your polling place in the same spot, and get the location of your clerk’s office or ballot drop boxes to return an absentee ballot — this late in the game, don’t mail it in. 

We’ve got detailed coverage of Detroit races, but we recommend checking out WDET’s candidate guides for 11 other cities (including Hamtramck, Dearborn, Southfield, Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe Park and others) and the Detroit Free Press/BridgeDetroit voter guide for many more. 

Keep reading for a closer look at Detroit’s candidates and ballot proposals; some in-and-outs for first-time voters and people who experience difficulties with their absentee ballots or while voting at the polls.   

Or head to the section you need:

Detroit candidates for mayor, city clerk, city council and more
Detroit ballot proposals
Register to vote, find your polling place and view your ballot
Absentee ballot return and issues
In-person voting details and issues

What’s on the ballot in Detroit?

These are the races on the Detroit ballot: 

  • Mayor
  • City Council (district representatives and two at-large seats)
  • City Clerk 
  • Board of Police Commissioners 
  • Community Advisory Council (in Districts 4 and 7)
  • Proposals E, R and S

Who are the candidates running for election in Detroit?

Detroit Mayor

On the one hand, we have incumbent Mike Duggan, who won the primary by a significant margin and is leaning into his administration’s many advances for improving quality of life for Detroiters.

On the other hand is challenger Anthony Adams, a former deputy mayor who’s been highly vocal in his criticisms of Duggan. He’s said the mayor has been too focused on downtown business interests and has not shown adequate concern for residents who continue to be burdened by unaffordable housing and a broken infrastructure.

We took a look at how the candidates compare on issues Detour readers said are most critical this election season, including affordable housing, blight, police reform, infrastructure and the environment. 

Read more: Detroit voter guide: How candidates for mayor approach housing, policing and more

Detroit City Clerk

As Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey runs the Nov. 2 election, she’s also running a campaign to keep her seat after a resounding win in the primary. The City Clerk race is one of the most pivotal issues on the ballot, with challenger Denzel McCampbell arguing that the next clerk needs to undertake a “complete overhaul of how we approach civic engagement and voting in the city,” a rebuke to Winfrey’s tenure.

The clerk’s most visible duty is overseeing elections, but the officeholder is also responsible for maintaining transparency for Detroit’s legislative body by keeping and disseminating records about City Council — including minutes, meeting notices and a calendar. 

Read more: Detroit voter guide: City Clerk candidates focus on voter education and transparency

Detroit City Council

With four open seats on the ballot, and two candidates who are implicated in an FBI corruption probe (though one is running unopposed), the election could usher in significant changes for Detroit City Council. Detroit voters will be asked to vote for a candidate to represent their council district, as well as two council members at-large. 

Detroit City Council acts as the city’s legislative body, setting the policy agenda and voting on city ordinances. City Council members serve full-time and are required to meet every day for 10 months of the year. City Council members receive an annual salary of $82,749, while the Council President is paid $94,000. 

Read more: Detroit voter guide: Here’s the 411 on City Council candidates

Board of Police Commissioners

Candidates are running in each district to fill seats on the 11-member Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, a civilian board charged with oversight of the Detroit Police Department. The Board, established in 1974 by City Charter, approves the DPD budget, oversees officer discipline, handles citizen complaints and approves internal rules and policy. “With two seats likely unfilled, and the guarantee of four appointments, Mayor Mike Duggan is positioned to handpick most of the police commission,” WDET reports, with more on issues with how the commission is run and its underutilized power to hold police accountable.

The Detroit Free Press wrote that the Board “wields too little authority over the police department it is meant to oversee” and that young men of color, who are most likely to be harmed or profiled by police, will likely remain underrepresented after the election. The Freep endorses incumbent Linda Bernard and District 6 challenger Landis Spencer. Read more about each candidate in Deadline Detroit’s guide.

Community Advisory Council

Detroit’s charter gives residents the ability to establish community advisory councils by petition, with a purpose to “improve citizen access to the city government.” They must hold public meetings four times per year. They receive no city funds but can accept grants. CACs are currently established only in Districts 4 and 7.

In District 4, Dennis Bryan is running. In District 7, Bobbi Johnson and Clinton Topp are running. There are five open seats within each CAC.

What are the proposals on the Detroit ballot?

Reparations, power of the purse and decriminalizing magic mushrooms — the proposal section is where to find the juicy stuff on your ballot. 

Proposal E

Proposal E asks whether the city should adopt an ordinance that “would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.” 

There doesn’t appear to be much opposition to the effort to decriminalize certain psychedelic substances, though there are some concerns about the still limited amount of research into their therapeutic use. Ann Arbor decriminalized entheogens last year, though, and so have a few other cities around the U.S., with mainstream acceptance continuing to grow — sounds a little like the cannabis legalization trajectory. 

Read more: Detroit voter guide: Proposal E would decriminalize ‘entheogenic plants’ like peyote

Proposal R

Proposal R asks, “Should the Detroit City Council establish a Reparations Task Force to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit?” 

The ballot proposal comes after Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield sponsored two council resolutions on reparations. The first resolution, passed by Council in June, agreed that African Americans have been “systematically, continually and unjustly enslaved, segregated, incarcerated, and denied housing through racist practices and redlining.” The second, passed in July, supported placing the reparations initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Read more: Detroit voter guide: Proposal R puts reparations on the ballot

Proposal S

Proposal S is a little trickier and has faced more scrutiny. Here’s the text that will appear on your ballot:

“‘Do you agree to amend a provision of the City of Detroit Charter to amend Sec. 12-101 of the Charter that restricts power from the voters to enact City ordinances for the appropriation of money?’ The amended section shall read: The voters of the city reserve the power to enact City ordinances, call the ‘initiative’, and the power to nullify ordinances, enacted by the City, called the ‘referendum’.  However, these powers do not extend to the budget and the referendum power does not extend to any emergency ordinance. The initiative and the referendum may be invoked by petition as provided in this chapter.”

Basically, Proposal S would give Detroiters some power to push ordinances that appropriate city funds through petition, and it’s a novel proposal to appear on a city’s ballot. Attorney Todd Perkins crafted the ballot proposal to go hand-in-hand with Proposal R, essentially forming the pathway to ensure Detroiters can actually get funding for the (potential, future) recommendations from the reparations task force. 

Critics say implementation would be difficult or potentially illegal, and one analysis underscores that individuals or corporate interests could also use the mechanism to promote agendas that don’t actually benefit Detroiters. 

Read more: Detroit voter guide: Proposal S would give residents power to appropriate city funds

Register to vote, find your polling place and view your ballot 

Am I registered to vote? 

You can check your voter registration status on the Michigan Secretary of State Voter Information Center site. 

I’m registered. Where do I vote in-person? 

Find your polling station by entering your info in the Michigan Voter Information Center. Note: several regular Detroit polling places have changed since previous elections. New polling places are shown in the voter information center, but you can also see a list of affected polling places here. 

What’s on my ballot? 

View your own ballot before you get in the booth here (or see the ballot for any jurisdiction here).

I’m not registered. Is it too late?

You can still register to vote and vote at the same time until 8 p.m. on Election Day (a recent change to voting law), in person at your City Clerk’s office. 

You’re eligible to register to vote in Michigan if you are:

  • a U.S. citizen, 
  • you will have been a resident of a Michigan city or township for at least 30 days by Aug. 3, 
  • you will be 18 years old by Aug. 3 and 
  • you are not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison.

You must provide proof of residency, which is a document with your name and current address. Paper or electronic documents are acceptable. Accepted proof of residency documents include: 

  • a Michigan driver’s license or state ID card, 
  • a utility bill, a bank statement, 
  • a paycheck, 
  • a government check or 
  • any other government document.

You will receive a receipt of your voter registration and vote immediately. 

Where is my clerk’s office?

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s office is located at 2978 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit and is open Tuesday until polls close at 8 p.m. The phone number is (313) 224-3260. Outside of Detroit, find your clerk’s office location and contact information by entering your address here

Can I register to vote without a photo ID or proof of citizenship?

Yes, you can register to vote with a photo ID or proof of citizenship. You will be asked for a photo ID if you register in person, but if you don’t have one, you are allowed to register without it by signing a form. (You will still need another proof of residency as listed above.)

Absentee ballot return and issues 

I have an absentee ballot. How do I return it?

If you already received an absentee ballot but haven’t yet returned it, you can fill it out and bring it to the clerk’s office or a drop box (open 24/7) until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Here are the drop box locations:

  • WCCCD Northwest Campus 8200 W. Outer Dr. (at Southfield Fwy.) Detroit, MI 48219
  • Greater Grace Temple 23500 W. Seven Mile Rd. (at Shiawassee Dr.) Detroit, MI 48219
  • Northwest Activities Center 18100 Meyers Rd (at Curtis) Detroit, MI 48235
  • Tindal Activity Center 10301 W. Seven Mile Rd. (at Meyers) Detroit, MI 48219
  • Farwell Recreation Center 2711 E. Outer Dr. (at Ryan Rd.) Detroit, MI 48234
  • DWSD Eastside Customer Care Center 13303 E. McNichols Rd. Detroit, MI 48205
  • WCCCD Eastern Campus 5901 Conner St. (at I-94) Detroit, MI 48213
  • Butzel Family Recreation Center 7737 Kercheval (at Van Dyke) Detroit, MI 48214
  • Department of Elections 2978 W. Grand Blvd. (at Third Ave) Detroit, MI 48202
  • City Clerk’s Office, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center 2 Woodward Ave., Suite 200 (at Jefferson Ave) Detroit, MI 48206
  • Clark Park 1130 Clark St. (at Scotten Ave and Vernor Hwy.) Detroit, MI 48209
  • Kemeny Recreation Center 2260 S. Fort St (at Schaefer Hwy) Detroit, MI 48217
  • Adams Butzel Recreation Complex 10500 Lyndon St. (at Meyers Rd.) Detroit, MI 48238
  • Rouge Park Golf Course 11701 Burt Rd. (Outer Dr. & Plymouth) Detroit, MI 48228
  • Detroit Pistons Performance Center 690 Amsterdam St. (at Second Ave.) Detroit, MI 48202 WCCCD Downtown Campus 1001 W. Fort St. (at Lafayette) Detroit, MI 48226
  • North Rosedale Park Community House 18445 Scarsdale St. (at Puritan Ave.)
  • Messiah Baptist 8100 W. Seven Mile Rd. Detroit, MI 48221
  • Renaissance Baptist Church 1045 E. Grand Blvd. Detroit, MI 48207
  • Liberty Temple Baptist Church 17188 Greenfield Rd. (Near 6 Mile/McNichols Rd) Detroit, MI 48235

Make sure to sign your absentee ballot envelope on the indicated line before you return it. Your clerk will review your signature to see if it matches the one they have on file.

I applied for an absentee ballot but I prefer to vote in person, didn’t receive my ballot, or received it but it had an error or I made a mistake. What do I do? 

You can still vote in person at your polling place on Tuesday. Bring your absentee ballot with you if you have it. You will be asked to complete a form and issued a new ballot. 

How do I track my absentee ballot?

You can track the status of your absentee ballot: whether your request has been received, whether your ballot has been mailed to you and finally whether your ballot has been received by your clerk. Track your ballot by entering your voter information at the Michigan Voter Information Center.   

Detroit voters can also check BallotTrax, a third-party tool that tracks ballots using USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode data combined with voter information provided by the city clerk. 

I returned my absentee ballot by mail or a dropbox and it’s not marked as received. What should I do?

Call your clerk. They will be able to confirm whether your ballot has been received.

If your clerk has not received your ballot, it could be lost or stuck in the mail. You will need to go to your polling location on Election Day. Election workers will check their records to make sure that your ballot hasn’t been received. If it has been received they’ll let you know and send you home. If it hasn’t been received, they’ll ask you to sign a form to cancel your absentee ballot and then allow you to vote in person at the polling place.

How to vote in-person and resolving Election Day issues

What do I need to bring with me when I go to vote? Do I need a photo ID?

If you have a photo ID and or your voter identification card, bring them with you. You will be asked to show a photo ID, but you are not required to have one. If you do not, you will be asked to sign an affidavit that will allow you to vote. 

If you recently registered to vote and received a receipt of your voter registration, you should bring it with you when you go to vote at the polls. 

If it’s your first time voting in Michigan, and you registered through the mail or a voter registration drive, you may need to show documentation when you go to vote at the polls.

According to the ACLU, paper or electronic documents that you can bring include: a photo ID with your name and picture (regardless of the address or with no address), driver’s license or personal ID card from any state, high school or college ID, passport, military or government-issued photo ID or tribal ID. You can also use documents with your name and address, including a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub, government check or any other government document.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot when I’m voting at my polling place?

If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one. If the scanner rejects your ballot, ask for a new one. If the tabulator machine isn’t working, you can place your completed ballot into a bin in the tabulator machine. 

What if my polling place doesn’t have me on its list of registered voters?

You can show the receipt from when you registered to vote if you have it. Give a poll worker your address — they will be able to tell you if you’re at the right polling place. If you’re not, find your polling place here

If you are at the right polling place but they still don’t have you on file, you can still go register to vote at the clerk’s office

If you can’t go to the clerk’s office with the required proof of residency you need, you may be able to vote at your polling place with a provisional ballot, for which you’ll need to sign an affidavit affirming you believe you are already registered to vote. If you have a photo ID with your address, your ballot will be counted on Election Day, and if you don’t, it will be separated for review. You’ll have six days to go to the clerk’s office to prove you’re a registered voter. 

What should I do if I experience any other problems voting?

You can call the nonpartisan election hotline for assistance or to report any issues at your polling place.

For assistance in English, call 855-I-VOTE-MI (855-486-8364).

Para recibir ayuda en español, llama a 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682).

:للمساعدة باللغة العربية، اتصل على
For assistance in Arabic, call 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287).

For assistance in Bengali, Cantonese, English, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Urdu or Vietnamese, 
call 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683).

Kate Abbey-Lambertz is the co-founder and editorial director for Detour Media. She leads editorial strategy for the signature Detour Detroit newsletter, The Blend and special projects, while shaping Detour’s membership program, audience development initiatives and design. Kate was previously a national reporter at HuffPost, where she covered equitable cities and urban issues. She launched HuffPost’s Detroit vertical, serving as reporter and editor, and has reported on Detroit for a decade. Follow her on Twitter: @kabbeyl