DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Elections workers will start counting the nearly 18,000 write-in ballots cast in this month's Detroit mayoral primary on Tuesday, the Board of Canvassers said.
The work is likely to be completed by Friday, according to Elections Director Chris Thomas. State canvassers are expected to receive Thomas' report by Sept. 3.
The board voted 4-0 Tuesday to allow the tabulations of the thus-far uncounted ballots, which are spread over more than 179 of 614 voting precincts in the city of Detroit.
Results from this count won't change the final two candidates in the general election: Former Detroit Medical Center chief Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
Wayne County canvassers referred the ballots to the state last week because they were tallied numerically by city elections workers instead of with hash marks.
Board member Julie Matuzak said during a public meeting Tuesday that not counting the ballots would disenfranchise city voters.
"The question of whether people made hash marks or slash marks is irrelevant," said Matuzak, a Democrat.
Some of the 90 or so people attending the public hearing demanded a recount of the entire vote.
"Detroiters have entirely lost trust in our election system," said mayoral hopeful Tom Barrow, who finished behind Duggan, Napoleon and a few other candidates on Aug. 6.
Thomas said a recount could not be held until after canvassers certify primary results.
Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett has blamed City Clerk Janice Winfrey for the problem. Winfrey has said workers were trained to use hash marks, but some ballots were counted with numerals.
Thomas said Wayne County should have counted the ballots anyway.
"In our initial review of the facts, we have found mistakes that were made with processing write-in votes at the city and county level," Thomas said at the meeting.
Aggressive write-in campaigns, like the one run by Duggan, pose "challenges in training election workers," he added.
"I'm not blaming anybody," Thomas later told reporters. "What we're talking about doing is going in and looking at the ballots ... and see what they say," Thomas said.
Thomas also said his staff will open sealed election boxes to look at the write-ins inside.
Wayne County canvassers said they counted about 24,000 valid write-in votes for Duggan and about 28,300 for Napoleon. The write-in ballot count could only change their order of finish in the primary.
Unofficial results showed Duggan received 44,395 write-in votes. Duggan launched a write-in campaign after a residency issue kicked his name off the primary ballot.