A procrastinator’s guide to the Aug. 3 prima...

A procrastinator’s guide to the Aug. 3 primary in Detroit

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

Detroit voting guide.

The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday for Michigan primary voters to cast their ballots. Are you ready to vote before they close at 8 p.m.?  If this election came up on you fast, here’s your last-minute cheat sheet for how to cast your ballot and what’s on it in Detroit. 

Your vote carries outsize importance: turnout has been historically low in local election primaries, and City Clerk Janice Winfrey estimated turnout for this year’s Detroit primary will be under 19%. There aren’t too many races on the ballot in Detroit, and you can even register to vote for the first time through Tuesday evening — so you still have time to get prepped and to the polls.

Keep reading for the 411 on how to vote in the primary; a closer look at Detroit’s candidates and Proposal P; and 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 races and candidates 
In depth: What’s up with Proposal P?
Register to vote, find your polling place and view your ballot 
Absentee ballot return and issues 
In-person voting issues 

Detroit races and candidates 

What races are on the ballot in Detroit? 

Detroit primary voters will be able to select candidates in races for Mayor, City Clerk, City Council District 1, 4 and 7 and Council Member At Large. In the first three races, the top two vote getters will advance to the November general election. There are two open at-large Council seats — so you can select two candidates, and four will advance. All races are nonpartisan.

Voters will also decide on Proposal P, or whether to adopt the City Charter Commission’s revised charter. Keep scrolling for more details on the proposal and each Detroit race. 

Only residents of Districts 1, 4 and 7 will have those Council races on their ballots — but you can also check what district you live in here. 

Detroit Mayor 

These are the candidates on the ballot: 

  • Mike Duggan (incumbent)
  • Anthony Adams 
  • Tom Barrow 
  • Kiawana Brown 
  • Myya Jones
  • Jasahn Larsosa 
  • Charleta McInnis
  • Danetta Simpson
  • Art Tyus 
  • D. Etta Wilcoxon 

We teamed up with WDET to survey Detroit candidates to gain a deeper understanding of what’s motivating them to run. Read their responses and listen to conversations with each mayoral candidate here.

City Clerk

These are the candidates on the ballot: 

  • Beverly Kindle-Walker
  • Denzel McCampbell
  • Michael Ri’Chard
  • Janice Winfrey (incumbent)

We teamed up with WDET to survey Detroit candidates to gain a deeper understanding of what’s motivating them to run. Get to know the clerk candidates here.

City Council Member At Large

These are the candidates on the ballot:

  • Jermain Jones
  • Nicole Small
  • Janeé Ayers (incumbent)
  • Coleman Young II
  • Mary Waters

We teamed up with WDET to survey Detroit candidates to gain a deeper understanding of what’s motivating them to run. Hear from City Council At Large candidates in their own words here

City Council District 1

These are the candidates on the ballot: 

  • James Tate (incumbent)
  • Quincy Coleman
  • Darryl Brown
  • Krystal Larsosa

Read candidates’ survey answers here. 

City Council District 4

These are the candidates on the ballot: 

  • Toson Jewell Knight
  • M.L. Elrick
  • Andemashaun Boman
  • Virgil Smith
  • Latisha Johnson
  • Ken Snapp
  • Daivon Reeder

Read candidates’ survey answers here. 

City Council District 7

These are the candidates on the ballot: 

  • Regina Ross
  • JoAnna Underwood
  • Angy Webb
  • Fred Durhal
  • John Bennett
  • William M Davis

Read candidates’ survey answers here. 

Keep digging

See WDET’s voter guide to meet candidates for races in Dearborn, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Pontiac and Sterling Heights. 

The Free Press and Detroit Metro Times have also published voter guides. You can read candidate endorsements from the Detroit News and Free Press editorial boards.

In depth: What’s up with Proposal P?

All Detroit voters will be asked to approve or reject Proposal P. Here is the question you will see on your ballot: ​​”Shall the City of Detroit Home Rule Charter proposed by the Detroit Charter Revision Commission be adopted?” Though a short question, the proposed charter it addresses is a 151-page document, three contentious years in the making with fierce opponents and critics. 

What’s the backstory?

Detroit adopted a revised charter in 2012, following a revision process and a vote of the people in 2011. Preexisting city laws required voters to decide whether to reopen the charter for revision in 2018; primary voters narrowly approved the matter and elected a nine-member commission in November of that year. The body had three years to work on their proposal, in meetings that gained attention for moments of tension and infighting. The commission held more than 200 meetings since its founding to craft the charter with extensive input from Detroiters.

Earlier this year, the commission voted to adopt its plan. The ballot proposal was in legal limbo for the last few months — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer refused to give her stamp of approval, citing legal issues, and a lower court ruling it couldn’t appear on the ballot. But the Michigan Supreme Court reversed that decision last week, clearing the way for voters to decide.

Meanwhile, the battle over the proposal has played out in a blizzard of ads taking over local airwaves, digital ad spaces and billboards, mostly from a group opposing Proposal P. Both sides are well funded, with major anti Proposal P donors including DTE Energy and Blue Cross Blue Shield and a labor union as a top donor to a group advocating for the proposal. 

What’s in the proposed charter?

You can read the full proposed charter, which essentially acts as the city’s constitution, right here. The revision includes more than 100 changes that together would dilute the “strong mayor” form of government that gives Detroit’s mayor more power than in some other forms of city government. The mayor would have less say in appointing police chief and corporation counsel. The plan would create 47 new elected positions and 102 new appointed positions, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The new charter would create departments of disability affairs and environmental justice, as well as offices of veteran affairs, immigrant affairs and economic justice and consumer empowerment. 

It would reduce transit fare, provide free public internet and implement income-based rates for water bills. It would expand police accountability and mandate housing affordability. It aims to increase transparency throughout city government and calls for additional sweeping changes in administration, labor rules, funding and services. 

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council analyzed the charter revision (18 pages), finding “many legal deficiencies” and summing up the revisions as telling “the tale of ‘Two Detroits’: one city that can boast of immense progress and a burgeoning economic recovery, and another city on the outskirts looking in at this progress.”

The CRC raises concerns about the charter potentially enacting policy that should be changed through ordinance; the number of new commissions that “confuse the chain of command” and the “lines of accountability”; and provisions that respond to the moment but might not be relevant as long as the charter must be. 

The report authors add that the revisions “are emblematic of the concerns of many who feel neglected and forgotten in the recent resurgence in the post-bankruptcy era. It is a charter driven by an almost exclusive focus on progressive governmental reforms without equal attention dedicated to efficient governmental function and structure.”

How much would it cost?

The City estimates that the revised charter would cost $2 billion over four years and consume almost half the city’s budget, in a report warning that adopting the charter could doom the city to another bankruptcy. However, an analysis (another 100-plus pages) conducted by a Michigan State University professor for the Commission took issue with the city estimates and came up with a revised cost of $7 million annually. The Citizens Research Council analysis didn’t cite a figure for the cost of implementing the charter’s changes, with a representative suggesting the true figure lies somewhere in between the two sides’ estimates.

Who supports it and why?

City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López has argued in favor of Proposal P and measures to increase equity and affordability. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spoke in favor of the Detroiter-led revision process. The Detroit People’s Platform has organized in support of Proposal P and “revisions that reflect the contemporary needs and priorities of the nation’s largest majority Black city.” Activist group Detroit Will Breathe supports it. Labor groups have also come out in support of Proposal P and its commitments to local contractors.

Who opposes it and why?

Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration has been a fierce critic of the charter revision. Former Mayor Dennis Archer, the Rev. Horace Sheffield and retired City employee groups are also opposed. So are “Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah, Sheila Cockrel, former Detroit City Council member, political consultants Adolph Mongo and Steve Hood and former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon.” Changes that would “handcuff” leadership, legal ramifications and potential costs are some of the largest complaints.

Editorial boards for the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Michigan Chronicle have also argued against Proposal P. 

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. 

Find a drop box here.

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.

In-person voting 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. 

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