Detroit’s election scandal


If you thought you knew all about Detroit’s troubles — think again.

Even though the bankrupt city is now ruled by state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, elections will occur this fall. The expectation is that the new mayor and city council will take over when Mr. Orr leaves, probably in October, 2014.

In a stunning upset, hospital executive Mike Duggan — a white candidate who moved into Detroit to run for mayor — finished first in last month’s city primary. Or so everyone thought, until the time came to certify the result.

Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced that more than half of Mr. Duggan’s votes would be thrown out because the counters didn’t make hash marks in their tally books. Her ruling was highly suspect because it has no basis in law and because her brother, a top local union official, is one of the biggest supporters of Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon, the Wayne County sheriff.

That brought state intervention; a team from Michigan’s elections division came to recount the vote. They reversed Ms. Garrett’s absurd ruling, but found something else that was disturbing: Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey apparently missed more than 4,000 of Mr. Duggan’s write-in votes. In the end, he had nearly twice as many votes as anyone whose name was actually on the ballot.

Few things are as sacred in a democracy as an election. Mr. Napoleon, who faces an uphill battle in the November election, is calling for federal oversight of the vote. “At this historic time,” he said, “Detroit voters need to be assured beyond any doubt that their vote will be counted, and counted accurately.”

Mr. Napoleon is right. Federal or state government must ensure that nothing interferes with the casting or counting of Detroit’s votes.

And then citizens, state officials, and prosecutors should take a hard look at the way elections are run and results are supervised in both Detroit and surrounding Wayne County — a place that increasingly seems to be evolving into a synonym for corruption.