Detroit polls open to long lines and high enthusiasm on election day

If there was one voter who wasn't going to be deterred on election day, it was Joan Knox.

"I feel honored that I'm able to do this, I'm an American citizen and I remember the blood sweat, and tears that were shed for us to have this right," she said Tuesday morning at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit

"It would be wrong of me not to be here so I'm honored to be the first in line," she said. "I wanted to be the first in line."

A line. A feature of election day polls, but not necessarily so early in the day. But on Nov. 3, an estimated 70 people had already lined up outside the northern Detroit polling station before doors had opened.

If the crowd of socially-distanced voters is any indication of Tuesday engagement, it could be a lively Nov. 3.

"We have fought for the vote. We have fought for the right to vote and I did not want to do an absentee ballot. I wanted to come in and vote at a poll," said Tunisa Jones, another election day voter. "That's the main thing. Vote."

More than 154,000 Detroiters cast their ballot ahead of election day, about a third of the count being tallied out of Wayne County. Michigan's Secretary of State said more than 3 million residents had already voted by Nov 3 and another 2 million were expected to vote in person.

For the early voters, it'll likely take a few days after the election to tabulate every vote. It's not clear when residents will know which direction Michigan's electoral votes will go as so many voted ahead of time. 

RELATED: Detroit city clerk says 500 ballots were not lost in mail, but spoiled

And some of that counting will be undertaken at the TCF Center. There, hundreds of poll workers are recording hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots mailed to the center. 

Because it's not a machine doing the counting, it'll take longer to record all mailed votes. But for the Detroit election clerk, it's not time they're worried about.

"We have two goals for this election. And that's to get this job done accurately and efficiently. Time is not a real concern of ours. We're taking every step and every precaution to make sure every person in here is safe and secure," said Daniel Baxter with the Detroit Department of Elections. 

RELATED: Michigan November election guide: register to vote, absentee ballots, important deadlines

Baxter and City Clerk Janice Winfrey walked reporters through the process of how absentee votes would be counted last week. The clerks and their workers will be under a bigger microscope for the general election.

After problems with miscounts and delays during the August primary, Winfrey said her department doubled down on recruiting and training poll workers. Winfrey and the secretary of state have also engaged the four sports franchises in the city.

As the Lion's Ford Field serves as a landing station for certifying absentee vote counts, the Detroit Pistons plan on hosting ballot drop-offs at the Henry Ford Performance Center, where Secretary Jocelyn Benson will cast her ballot alongside the team's vice chairman.

Head Coach Dwayne Casey will also deploy local food trucks and offer free food to the busiest polling locations in Detroit.

Election officials hope the convergence of major city brands, increased access to voting, and an already boiling campaign season turns out residents for the 2020 election.

Last week, Winfrey told reporters she anticipated a 50% turnout from the city - similar figures to what has been seen in the past. But she also said they're prepared for much more. 

"We have to prepare for 100% turnout," Winfrey said last week. "Yes, we are prepared for 100%."