Updated tech, pre-processing enable successful ballot count in Detroit

By 5 a.m., most of the Wayne County poll workers who counted absentee votes had sealed the ballots in their transfer cases and gone home following a largely successful and efficient election day, Detroit's election advisor said.

"It was a good day in the city of Detroit," said Daniel Baxter early Wednesday morning.

The sentiment stood in direct contrast to how counting unfolded during the 2020 election. For the 2022 midterms, poll workers tabulated nearly 81,000 mail-in ballots - taking advantage of the pre-processing and election day counting procedures granted to clerks following the last presidential race.

Find election results here

Baxter said both the rule changes and upgrades to the technology the clerk used aided the county in completing a successful tally. 

"After the 2018 Primary, we began to recalibrate our operations here at the department of elections," he said. "We went from using a paper active voter list to an electronic poll book. We have a new caliber of poll worker that works down here and goes through dynamic training."

Michigan Election Updates: Whitmer reelected, abortion proposal passes, Dems flip seat in Congress

Baxter said that election workers took shifts instead of working all at once, which made the experience easier on the volunteers. They worked from the AM to the PM, or PM to the AM, said the election head.

Two years ago, Huntington Place - then known as the TCF Center - was the site of chaos as poll challengers crowded both inside and around the election counting facility as mail-in ballots were tabulated. 

As protesters gathered outside the building, shouting about unfounded allegations of fraud, the Detroit elections chief at the time made the decision to cover the windows to protect the privacy of the counters.

Other Midterm election news we're watching:

Now, two years later, there were no protests. The counting was complete 12 hours sooner than during the last race. And Baxter said there were no last-minute hiccups. The efficiency enabled some races to be called earlier than expected, reducing the period of time between when polls close and results are unofficial. 

Detroit turnout ended up on the higher end of expectations at about 35%, which was still lower than the total participation during the previous midterm, which had about 40%. While the total number of ballots was down, the number of absentee ballots that was counted was a record. 

What happens next?

Baxter said the ballots will now be sealed in transfer cases and taken to the Wayne County Department of Elections for storage. 

There, they will wait until the county board of canvassers certifies the election. The canvassing process will take 14 days, Baxter said.