David Josar, Detroit News, July 18, 2006
Detroit — City Clerk Janice Winfrey is set in less than a month to eliminate from voting rolls the names of nearly 55,000 dead people and those who no longer live in Detroit, as she undertakes a blitzkrieg aimed at restoring integrity and respect to Detroit elections.
Winfrey, a political novice and former math teacher, was able to do in six months something her predecessor, Jackie Currie, didn’t do for years.
“It was very easy,” Winfrey said, explaining she bought “death lists” from the state and city Health Department so the names of the deceased could be purged. Then she moved to eliminate the names of people who hadn’t cast a ballot since before the 2002 election and who had been mailed voter card registration renewal forms that were returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable.
33,000 names removed
Already the names of about 33,000 deceased voters have been removed.
The rest can be removed after the August primary.
Winfrey estimates another 40,000 names can be removed under a similar process in 2008.
Currie said she didn’t have the power to clean up the voter rolls, which she claimed could be done only by state officials.
Winfrey beat Currie last year amid a growing drumbeat for an overhaul of city elections.
Last year, the city had 637,000 registered voters, a figure critics say had to be wrong since according to census figures, Detroit only had 630,000 people 18 or older who were eligible to vote.
As Currie faced Winfrey in last year’s election, a lawsuit was being heard in Wayne County Circuit Court that accused Currie of using her team of “ambassadors,” who were later barred by a judge and then disbanded by Winfrey, to manipulate election results. They helped people vote.
The Detroit News revealed that the ambassadors violated state law when they went out to collect votes.
In one case, reporters found legally incapacitated people with Alzheimer’s and other illnesses being coaxed by ambassadors to vote for certain candidates via absentee ballot and that the ambassadors would complete ballots for voters.
Currie also defied an order by Wayne County Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly and mailed thousands of absentee ballot applications to vacant lots, abandoned nursing homes and other places. Currie eventually was found in contempt of court.