By Tom Travis
City Clerk Inez Brown attempted to assure the community that her office is “honest, sincere and working hard 24/7” to see that the voting process is carried out. In a press conference held in the lobby of Flint City Hall Tuesday morning Brown announced that 11,455 absentee ballots have been issued and 3,574 ballots have been returned. Brown said this is a 31.2% return rate.
Pending litigation with ACLU not discussed
Brown would not comment on litigation between her office and the ACLU and five Flint residents. Monday, 7th Circuit Court Judge Celeste Bell, ruled in favor of the ACLU stating, “A substantial delay has occurred in providing absent voter applications and ballots that cannot be explained or excused by the unfortunate circumstances affecting the voters and the City Clerk.”
Bell ordered that the voters of Flint are “in danger of irreparable harm through the loss of their constitutional absentee voting rights if the City Clerk fails to take immediate steps as required by this Order to comply with legal mandates regarding the issuance of absent voter ballots.”
Seeming to indicate the ACLU and local residents who recently sued the City Clerk, Brown said,
“And I say this to those individuals who are lambasting our office, which I don’t care if you do, because we are doing things the right way. What you’re doing is suppressing the vote. You are indicating to people, “you don’t want to vote because things aren’t being done right.” We have people up here who have worked very hard on voting rights. And myself, I have worked on voting rights since I was a child”, Brown said.
Brown continued, “So I want you all to be sure we whole heartedly support the absentee ballot process. We’re happy with the new law so that everyone can cast an absentee ballot. We are working night and day, 24/7. We’ve done it for the last 5 weeks with a small staff.”
Brown continued, “So I want this community to know that we’re sincere, honest. And to the individuals going around saying we have thrown away a 1000 ballots, if that had happened we would be in jail today because we have not thrown away a 1000 applications. We do not do that because we have to account for it.”
Deadlines for August 4 election
Brown called the press conference with “the purpose to inform voters of election deadlines.” Brown stated that the Clerk’s office will be open this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm to cast absentee ballots.
The Clerk announced that she has “deputized” individuals who will be going into the community based on phone calls the Clerk’s office has received to pick up the ballots of individuals who may not have time to bring them in or who maybe be incapacitated. Brown indicated that the Clerk’s office has done this in past years for other elections. “It’s not the first time we’ve done this”, Brown said.
Brown also announced that there would be “four polling locations where voters can drop off their ballots starting tomorrow from 9 am to 5 pm all the way up until Monday.”
Those four drop-off polling locations are:
Northside: Berston Field House 3300 N. Saginaw Street
Southside: Word of Life Ministries 460 W. Atherton Road
Eastside: Mince Manor 3820 Richfield Road, in the lobby.
Westside: West Court Street Church of God Church 2920 W. Court Street
Brown said that each of these locations will be staffed by two election workers. Brown indicated that these election workers are “trained and have been with us for a long time.” Brown continued, “When the ballots are dropped off they will be placed in a secure can.I want to emphasize to you all. We do not tamper with the ballots.
We cannot open the ballots until 7am on election day. We have an absentee ballot counting board who have been trained to process the absentee ballots. They are sequestered like a jury that entire day to ensure that the counting takes place.”
Brown said, “We are up to date contrary to what anyone may say.” Her statement was followed by applause from 1st Ward Councilperson Eric Mays and many others that were present standing behind and around Brown. Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) was also present at the press conference.
Brown added, “We have 74,000 registered voters in Flint. The fact that 11,000 have decided to do something says a lot about voter apathy.”
Election day, August 4, polls open at 7 am
Brown announced that on election day, August 4, the polls will open promptly at 7 am. Brown added that, “Many clerks across the state are having difficulty getting their election workers to work due to the pandemic crisis. It is creeping up on us today. But fortunately for us today many of our workers will be working the election.
Concerning the polling locations in Flint Brown added, “Across the country some clerks are finding that the owners of buildings that are used for polling stations are not able to be used because they are not yet open due to the pandemic.”
“All 26 Flint polling station locations will allow us to use their buildings on election day. I have made contact with them early on to insure that everything was in order.” Brown said.
EVM assistant editor and democracy beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org