By Tom Travis
A $475,625 grant for the Flint City Clerk’s office to provide additional ballot drop boxes, additional staffing, strengthened election security, and processing of absentee ballots has been approved by the Flint City Council.
The grant, from the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Life , comes on the heels of 7th Circuit Court Judge Celeste Bell ruling on complaints about voting and ballot processes from the American Civil Liberties Untion (ACLU) and five Flint voters against City Clerk Inez Brown.
Brown explained to the City Council in the Sept. 16 meeting that the money will be used to purchase eight additional ballot drop-boxes, additional staffing to process the expected high number of absentee ballots in November’s election, assist voters to be able to safely request absentee ballots, expand in-person voting opportunities, and expand the strategic voter education and outreach effort.
A press release from the City Clerk’s office added the grant will provide cameras to monitor each location to ensure election security. “Additional funds are dedicated to increase staffing and pay for election inspectors, voter education, and outreach efforts, as well as additional election support,” the release stated.
Brown said her office expects to hire an additional 250 workers for the November election. She said she normally has about 350 workers for elections but due to the pandemic, many of the workers didn’t show up for the August primary. Brown added election workers will be paid an additional $100/day in hazard pay.
Brown indicated the additional workers hired will assist with the expected high number of absentee ballots in the general election. Brown said her office processed 9,300 absentee ballots in the primary election. She explained the number of primary election absentee ballots usually triples at the general election, and she expects the number of absentee ballots to swell well to more than 20,000 in the November election.
A final report with documentation and the reasoning for any expenses is to be submitted to the granting organization by Jan. 31, 2021. Any unused amount from the $475,000 by the Clerk’s office would have to be returned to CTCL, Brown said.
Clerk provided a six-page grant plan
A source who requested anonymity shared with EVM the grant plan Brown drafted and that was submitted in the $475,625 grant application. In the opening paragraphs, the City Clerk described dire financial needs for “cash strapped” clerk offices across the country due to the high number of expected mail in ballots.
In that document, Brown stated, “Michigan election officials typically conduct presidential elections with 25 – 30% of the voters casting ballots by mail and 70 – 75% casting them in–person on election day. It now appears that mail balloting may account for 65 – 70% of the turnout. This trend is breaking municipal election budgets beginning with the higher-than-expected mail turnout in the August Primary that will continue through the November General Election.”
The entire six-page grant plan can be viewed at the end of this article.
Council approves appointments to Ethics and Accountability, Zoning, and Hurley Hospital Board of Managers
In other business, meeting for a total of ten hours over two days, the Council approved eight out of nine appointments brought to them.
- Patrick D. Julian was approved for appointment to Ethics and Accountability Board. Julian is from the 5th Ward and was appointed by Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter.
- Florissa Stebbins was approved for appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Stebbins is from the 1st Ward and will serve a three year term beginning Sept. 14, 2020.
- Marsha L. Wesley, a Flint resident, was approved to serve on the Flint Hospital Building Authority for a five year term beginning Sept. 2020 expiring May 2025. Wesley is replacing Thomas S. James whose term expired in May 2019.
- Gregory Viener, a resident of Byron, MI, was approved to serve on the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board of Directors as a banking professional. Viener’s appointment is a six year term beginning Sept. 2020 expiring Septiember 2026.
The following were apporved to serve on the Hurley Board of Hospital Managers appointments. Hurley is the City’s only public hospital.
- Jessie L. Collins, a Flint resident, was reapproved to serve an additional five year term from Sept. 2020 expiring April 2025.
- Dr. Brian Nolan (M.D.), of Grand Blanc, was reapproved to serve an additional five year term from Sept. 2020 expiring April 2025.
- DeAndra Larkin, a Flint resident, was approved for appointment to serve for five years from Sept. 2020 expiring April 2025. Larkin replaces Dr. Susan Borrego whos term expired April 30, 2020.
- Brenda Williams, a Flint resident, was approved for appointment to serve for five years from Sept. 2020 expiring April 2024. Williams replaces Carl Bekofske whose term expired April 30, 2020.
- Dr. Samir Elian, was not approved. By the time the council got around to voting for Dr. Elian the permitted number of medical professionals on the Hurley Board of Managers had already been met. [According to the city charter 6, 201B.]
The public can participate and listen to bi-monthly City Council meetings
The City Council continues to meet twice a month at 5:30 p.m. Mondays by video conference.
The public can participate in the council meeting by emailing comments to CouncilPublicComment@cityofflint.com no later than 10 minutes prior to the start of the meetings at 5:30 p.m. The emailed comments will be read by the City Clerk staff.
The public and members of the press can listen to the meeting online by live stream at www.youtube.com/user/spectacletv or through Start Meeting Solution by dialing 617-944-8177.
Those with disabilities may participate in the meeting by the above mentioned means and by emailing a request for an accommodation to CouncilPublicComment@cityofflint.com with the subject line Request for Accommodation.
Anyone with further questions about participating in the council meeting may call the City Clerk’s office at 810-766-7418.
City Clerk Inez Brown’s grant plan for $475,625.
EVM assistant editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.