City Clerk and City of Flint respond to ACLU complaint about absentee ballot/voters rights concerns

By Tom Travis

In response to a complaint filed in the Genesee County Circuit Court Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and five Flint residents, City Clerk Inez Brown has announced 24-hour access to a secured absentee ballot drop box now installed in front of City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw Street, “for the convenience of Flint voters.”  she said.

The full response is attached below.

A new Drop Box for absentee ballots placed outside of City Hall. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Clerk’s statement continued, “If City of Flint voters choose not to mail in their completed absentee ballots or submit them directly to the City Clerk’s Office during regular business hours, they may drop their absnetee ballots in the box for the August 4 Election.”

The action appeared to offer one answer to assertions in the ACLU complaint that  slow processing of absentee ballot applications and slow to nonexistent delivery of the ballots is compromising Flint voters’ rights.

Additionally a 54-page response with 92 numbered points from City Attorney Angela Wheeler was filed today in the Genesee County 7th Circuit Court in which many of the allegations made by the ACLU and plaintiffs were denied by Wheeler. The five Flint residents who brought the complaint with the ACLU to court are Brian and Doris Barkey, Nayyirah Shariff, Quincy Murphy, and Maryum Rasool.

The response, signed by Wheeler, argued, “The duty to commence sending out ballots does not begin immediately upon receipt of the application if the application is received before the printing of the absent voter ballots, but as soon as the ballots are received by the clerk.” Wheeler’s response further clarified that  the signature from the ballot application must be verified with the registration card and there must be an original signature on file in the Clerk’s office before a ballot can be sent out.

The City’s response stated that while City Hall has been closed since March 17  due to the pandemic, the public “continued to have access to the Clerk’s office resources by email, telephone and appointment.”

In another response to a key contention of the ACLU complaint, Wheeler’s response stated,  “On Monday, July 20, 2020, the City Clerk’s office physical location will reopen to the public to receive absentee ballot requests, to register voters and provide voter education to clarify any questions by citizens.”

All visitors to the clerk’s office must wear masks, a statement from the city stated.  The hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Aug. 1.

New Drop Box for absentee ballots in front of City Hall. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Concerning the complaint’s allegation of ballots being received by June 25, the City Attorney’s response admitted, in part that “Clerk Brown received the ballots on June 25, 2020,” but denied the balance of the allegations made by the plaintiffs.

The City Attorney’s response further stated that “as of July 14  more than 5,000 absentee ballots were mailed out and as of July 16, 2020 more than 7,000 absentee ballots were mailed out.

More than 75,000 absentee ballot applications had been mailed out to Flint’s registered voters in May by the Michigan Secretary of State.

Questions about the Aug.  4 election can be directed to the Clerk’s office at 810.766.7413.

EVM Assistant Editor and City Hall reporter Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.eastvillagemagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020.07.17-Defendants-Brown-and-City-of-Flints-Answer-to-Plaintiffs-Complaint.pdf” title=”2020.07.17 Defendants Brown and City of Flint’s Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint”]

Author: Tom Travis

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