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Voter turnout tops expectations in Detroit

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

With emergency manager Kevyn Orr running Detroit, the city’s elected officials have very few real powers. So Detroiters could be forgiven for asking: Why bother to vote at all?

But for some Detroiters, there was no question about exercising the right to vote.

And turnout for this election was higher than expected, at upwards of 25%.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey had projected that less than 25% of voters would participate.

That’s about the same level of voter participation as in 2009, when Dave Bing was elected mayor. But it’s still a substantially lower turnout than prior mayoral elections.

Still, many Detroiters, like Marla Wellborn, saw it as their duty to cast a vote.

“It’s never a waste,” said Wellborn as she emerged from a polling place in northwest Detroit. “ You have to have a voice…even though it’s not active at this time.”

Wellborn said even if elected officials are sidelined for the moment, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a future Detroit.  At this point, there’s “no place to go but up,” she said.

Fellow Detroiter Rob McCall agreed.

“It’s a citizen’s duty [to vote],” McCall said. I’m a military veteran--five generations of military veterans in my family. And being African American I just think it’s kind of important to vote, regardless of the situation.”

Under the state’s emergency manager law, Orr will remain in power until at least September 2014. At that point, the City Council could vote to remove him, but the state would still retain substantial powers in Detroit.  

*Clarification: An earlier post state that turnout was upward of 27%. The Detroit Free Press piece we linked to is now reporting 25%. We updated above. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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