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The Detroit primaries are August 4. Here’s w...

The Detroit primaries are August 4. Here’s what you need to know.

Here are all the important deadlines, registration info and candidates to get you ready to vote.

detroit poll workers

The Detroit primaries are August 4, and we want to make sure you’re registered and ready to exercise your right to vote. We’ve designed this FAQ to help get you there, and we’ll be continuously updating it before the election.

WHEN ARE DETROIT’S PRIMARIES?

The primary election in Michigan and Detroit will be held Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

WHAT DEADLINES DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Voter Registration: You can register to vote in Michigan in-person any time before the election, including on the day of the election. Mail-in and online voter registration applications must be received by Monday, July 20, 2020.

Absentee ballot request: You must request an absentee ballot no later than Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m.

Absentee ballot return: Returned ballots must be received by August 4 at 8 p.m. Voters are now strongly encouraged to drop off your ballot at one of the following locations (no postage required!) rather than returning by mail.

Absentee spoil ballots: If you’re mailing a spoil ballot (a ballot you’ve sent in already but want to recant and change), they’re due August 1 by 2 p.m. or handed-off in person to your city clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on August 3. 

WHY DOES THE AUGUST 4 DETROIT PRIMARY MATTER?

In the August 4 state primary election, Detroiters can vote their nomination for their party’s candidate in advance of the November 3 general election. (Not for president — Michigan’s presidential primary took place in spring.) Michigan voters can vote only on one party’s slate. Other local measures will also appear on the ballot. You can view your ballot here (Click “View Ballots by Precinct” on the left).

Because Detroit is a majority Democratic area, it will play a critical role in determining the outcome of some contentious Democratic primary races. And because of the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, a number of local races only have Democratic candidates or will face Republican challengers with little chance of winning in the general election — meaning winners will be unofficially decided by primary voters. 

HOW CAN I REGISTER TO VOTE?

You can check if you are already registered to vote on the Secretary of State site.

The first step to registering to vote is determining your eligibility. To be eligible to register to vote you must be:

  • A Michigan resident (at the time you register) and a resident of your city or township for at least 30 days (when you vote)
  • A United States citizen
  • At least 18 years of age (when you vote)
  • Not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison

You can register any time before election day online. You can also go to your city or county clerk’s office, a local Secretary of State or through a voter registration drive. The location and hours of Detroit’s City Clerk’s office are:

City Clerk’s Office 
Coleman A. Young Municipal Center 
2 Woodward Ave. Suite 200 Detroit, MI 48226 
(313)-224-3260
Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Detroit Department of Elections
2978 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 876-0190
Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

You may also register to vote and request an absentee ballot at Satellite Voting Centers in Detroit in each district starting Monday, July 13. Hours of operation at these locations is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you mail in your voter registration application, it must be received by Monday, July 20.

WHO CAN VOTE ABSENTEE?

Michigan voters passed a ballot initiative in 2018 that allows any eligible Michigan voter to apply for absentee voting and receive a mail-in ballot to fill out at home. Coronavirus has made absentee voting a particularly important service, and Michiganders are taking advantage of it. In May, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson used federal CARES Act funding to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered Michigan voters, so you should have received an absentee ballot application in the mail already. And officials from the Secretary of State’s office said in early July that they had received about 3.1 million ballot requests — more than three times the number of requests made before the 2016 presidential election.

HOW CAN I REQUEST AN ABSENTEE BALLOT?

If you can’t find the application in your mailbox, you can apply for an absentee ballot online, but must do so by today, July 31 at 5 p.m. on the dot. You will need your driver’s license or state ID and social security numbers. You can also contact the City of Detroit Department of Elections to request an absentee ballot at:

2978 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 876-0190
Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

If you still want to vote absentee, head to your local clerk’s office in person anytime before August 4 to get your ballot. Returned ballots must be received by August 4 at 8 p.m. 

You won’t be alone–more than 2 million ballots were released as of July 30 — that’s compared to 475,000 around this time in 2016.

WHAT DOES DETROIT’S HISTORICAL VOTER TURNOUT LOOK LIKE?

Socioeconomic status and a lack of access to quality education, combined with voter suppression tactics like gerrymandering and reduced access to polling locations have meant that Detroit’s voter turnout typically lags the rest of the state. Detroit’s voter turnout was 41% in the 2018 primaries, while turnout statewide was around 58%.

And voter engagement tends to follow racial divisions. In the 2016 elections in Michigan, 66% of white people, 61% of Black people and 33% of Latinx people turned out to vote. Lower incomes and lower education levels also correspond to lower turnout rates, according to some researchers.

WHERE IS MY POLLING PLACE?

You can find your polling place, or where to vote, on the Secretary of State website — the location will come up when you enter personal information to confirm your voter registration. 

HOW CAN I SEE MY BALLOT?

See what your ballot will look like and who is running on the same Secretary of State page. 

CAN I VOTE IF I DON’T HAVE A MICHIGAN LICENSE OR STATE ID?

Yes. Some voters who registered via mail or a voter registration drive may need to show a photo ID with name and picture, regardless if the address is correct, or a non-photo ID with your correct name and address. More details here.

WHAT COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS WILL BE TAKEN AT POLLING PLACES?

State and local officials are preparing for COVID-19 risks during the election. If you’re concerned about spending time in other indoor spaces with lots of people, vote-by-mail a simple solution. Voting at polling places is still an option, and election workers are making arrangements for social distancing at precincts to protect citizens and poll workers from COVID-19. Secretary Jocelyn Benson told MLive she’s expecting more ballots through mail for this election, which will make processing ballots more time-intensive. The Detroit City Clerk asks voters to wear a mask while voting. Voters can view the Detroit Election Department’s Return to Work guidelines for an idea of precautions they’re taking in their workspaces, which include polling places. 

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR RACES IN DETROIT?

At the federal level, two of the key races in the Detroit primaries are for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan Congressional District 13 and District 14. In District 13, progressive incumbent Rashida Tlaib faces off with more moderate Brenda Jones, who is currently City of Detroit Council President. The race has gotten contentious, with a lawsuit filed in July that aims to remove Jones from the ballot, and mailers attacking Tlaib sent out by a pro-Jones super PAC. Find more about how they stand on the issues in Ballotpedia’s candidate surveys for Jones and Tlaib. In District 14, incumbent and former City of Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence will face West Bloomfield Township resident Terrance Morrison, who has held no prior office.

Eyes are also on the race in the 9th state House district between incumbent Karen Whitsett, who has been accused of being friendly to President Donald Trump and publicly touted her treatment for COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine, and challenger Roslyn Ogburn.

Another race of note is Wayne County Prosecutor, which will be unofficially decided because there are no Republicans running. Incumbent Kym Worthy is challenged by Victoria Burton-Harris, a progressive who is running on a platform to end mass incarceration. And a special election will be held in the 4th state House district to replace Rep. Isaac Robinson, who died in April, likely after suffering complications due to COVID-19. Voters in that district — which includes all of Hamtramck and some surrounding Detroit neighborhoods — will have to vote twice, once for a candidate to carry out the last two months of Robinson’s term, and once for a candidate to take office in January. You can pick the same candidate twice. 

voting in Detroit primaries
Credit: Element5 Digital via Pexels

WHAT ARE THE OTHER RACES ON THE BALLOT?

On August 4, all Wayne County voters will decide on the following:

PROPOSALS

1. Wayne County:

Proposal O: OPERATING MILLAGE RENEWAL: A proposal to renew the operating millage first authorized in 2009 for 10 more years (2020 through 2029). If this gets passed, a property tax levy of $95.29 for every $100,00 in assessed property tax value would be renewed. This would allow for about $42 million in current services, like public health, recreation, juvenile court, etc.

Proposition P: PARKS MILLAGE RENEWAL: A proposal to renew the operating millage first authorized in 2016 for 5 more years (2021 through 2025).

2. Detroit Public School District:

DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS COMMUNITY DISTRICT NON-HOMESTEAD MILLAGE RENEWAL PROPOSAL: A proposal to renew the non-homestead property levy on business, industrial, commercial and rental properties millage first authorized in 2016 for 11 years (2023 to 2033)

CANDIDATES

U.S. Senate seat:

Gary Peters (incumbent, D)

John James (R)

U.S. Representatives in Congress:

11th District 

Haley Stevens (incumbent, D) 

Frank Acosta (R)

Kerry Bentivolio (R) 

Eric S. Esshaki (R)

Carmelita Greco (R) 

Whittney Williams (R)

12th District

Debbie Dingell (incumbent, D) 

Solomon Rajput (D) 

Jeff Jones (R)

13th District

Rashida Tlaib (incumbent, D)

Brenda Jones (D) 

David Dudenhoefer (R) 

Linda Sawyer (R)

14th District

Brenda Lawrence (incumbent, D) 

Terrance Morrison (D) 

Daryle F. Houston (R) 

Robert Vance Patrick (R)

State of Michigan Representatives:

There are elections in Michigan’s 110 state House districts. See a map of the districts here and check out the candidates in each district’s race on Ballotpedia.

County:

Wayne County Prosecutor

Kym Worthy (incumbent, D)

Victoria Burton-Harris (D)

Wayne County Sheriff

Benny Napoleon (D, incumbent)

Charles Corley, II (D)

T. P. Nykoriak (D)

Wayne County Clerk

Cathy M. Garrett (incumbent, D)

Dylan M. Gomula (R)

Wayne County Treasurer

Eric R. Sabree (incumbent, D)

Angelo S. Brown (D)

Beverly Kindle-Walker (D)

Anthony Wozniak R)

Register of Deeds

Bernard J. Youngblood (incumbent, D)

Ricardo R. Moore (D)

Parker Burns (R)

Also on Detroiters’ ballots:

County commissioner races and 3rd circuit judge of district court. See the full candidate lists for Wayne County here.

WHAT IF I HAVE A PROBLEM VOTING?

The ACLU of Michigan put out this guide to knowing your voting rights, with details on eligibility, accessibility, and what to do in various scenarios if you find yourself turned away at the polls. They also operate the following voter hotlines:

For assistance in English, call 866 – OUR- VOTE (866 687 8683).

HOW CAN I APPLY TO BE AN ELECTION-DAY POLL WORKER?

Younger people might want to consider stepping up and volunteering at the polls this year. Studies show most poll workers are over 60 — the same group that is susceptible to severe COVID-19 disease. To apply to be an election-day poll worker, you must either file an application in person with the Department of Elections or apply online. You must be over 18, be a registered voter, and have never been convicted of a felony to be eligible.

Zaria Phillips contributed to this report.


Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is a contributing editor for Detour Detroit. She is the founder and executive editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup that tells Detroit’s environmental stories while building a community of engaged readers who are informed and empowered to act personally and publicly. She is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes, edits and produces stories about the environment, place and identity. Her recent work has been published by Detour Detroit, Belt Magazine, HuffPost, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Crains Detroit Business, Business Insider, Curbed Detroit and Model D. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked in urban planning in the local government and nonprofit sectors. She has a Master of Science in Natural Resource Ecology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaignaczak

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