DETROIT - "This is what's been done," the Detroit City Clerk said, gesturing to an open room behind her.
Tables with tabulators that are manned by poll workers made up the backdrop of Janice Winfrey's press conference on Tuesday.
Winfrey had just been asked about what had changed since Michigan's primary in August when most of Detroit's precincts reported irregularities with absentee ballot counts. As it turns out, quite a bit.
"I think people had forgotten we are living in a pandemic. People forgot Detroit was a hotspot, that the average (election) worker is 70 years old. We get all that and remember, we were at a stay-home order," she said,
By the time election workers had returned to work to prepare for a busy August primary that anticipated an inversion of absentee vs. election turnout, it was already late by planning standards.
Recruiting new workers was harder and the city clerks office had less time to do it. Some veteran poll workers had died of COVID-19 while others didn't feel safe coming back. To offset the imbalance of support, Winfrey said she reached out to the state, county, and city to try and recruit furloughed workers.
"What happened was many of those workers that came in were new. They only got one hour of training, instead of three days. And about 8 p.m., they walked off," she said. "They quit. They left work undone."
While few election outcomes were in question, a review of ballots recorded did not match the number of ballots cast in Detroit's absentee precincts. Canvassers discovered 72% of the city's absentee ballot counts were off. Now, with a general election barreling toward a state that's reached battleground status and a city that's struggled to motivate more turnout in previous cycles, can Detroit's voting infrastructure withstand a potentially record-breaking number of ballots?
"We have to prepare for 100% turnout," Winfrey said. "Yes, we are prepared for 100%."
Detroit's turnout likely won't be 100%. In fact, the city's clerk predicts turnout to be half that. But with 2020 temperatures hot amid one of the country's most contentious political races, the city says it's prepared to handle anything.
Speaking from the TCF Center Thursday morning, election officials walked reporters through the process that absentee ballots get tabulated.
Winfrey also addressed concerns about missing absentee ballots this week, clarifying those that had gotten lost were actually spoiled by voters.