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An inside look at how Detroit will count absentee ballots

Posted at 3:40 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 17:54:55-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The City of Detroit is expecting nearly 200,000 absentee ballots, and on Thursday 7 Action News got an inside look at how they plan to count them all.

"We have revamped all the processes and associations of processing absentee ballots,” said Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.

An entire floor of the TCF Center is dedicated to processing and counting every absentee ballot in Detroit. A total of nearly 10,000 workers are covering three full shifts, starting 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, then resuming at 6 a.m. on Election Day, working through the night and finishing at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Remember this is an election week, no longer an Election Day,” Winfrey said.

The first step is to scan in the ballot with a bar code assigned to each voter. Then another inspector makes sure the name matches the ballot number. Due to a new law, these two steps are allowed to be done on Monday this election only.

“We plan to take full advantage of the new law to ensure that our poll workers are rested and ready to take on the challenge of the day,” Winfrey said.

On Tuesday, workers can do the next steps, including removing the stub, then running all the ballots through the tabulator.

“The high speed tabulator will begin to process those ballots, upload that data, and store it until 8 o'clock on election night,” said Election Consultant Daniel Baxter.

That is when the first data will be released, and it will then be updated every hour until the counting is complete.

If there’s an issue with a ballot, it’s then sent to a review station where the ballot is looked over.

“A Democrat and a Republican has to be at each one of those stations," Baxter said. "They make a determination, then the ballot is processed.”

The city clerk is expecting a 50% turnout, but is hoping for more, saying the city is ready for 100% turnout.

"We have over half a million voters and every vote counts," Winfrey said. "We want every voter to show up and vote in this election in the City of Detroit.”