Coffin up votes

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Take a bow, Bill Ballenger.

Before the August primary, Metro Times interviewed Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, for a story we did about Detroit’s inflated voter rolls (“Puffy Rolls,” MT, July 27). In that article, Ballenger accurately predicted that there was the distinct possibility the vote could end up being challenged by a losing City Council candidate claiming to be the victim of election fraud.

“This is an accident waiting to happen,” Ballenger said at the time.

You notice we didn’t say allegedly inflated voter rolls. As far as we’re concerned, there’s no doubt that the city’s official list of eligible voters is overflowing with the names of people alive and dead who can’t legally cast ballots. And that’s not just News Hits shooting from the lip as usual. On this issue we have a bona fide expert backing us up. In reporting on the issue originally, we talked to Wayne State University demographer Kurt Metzger, who said with mathematical certainty that the city’s official number of 637,000 registered voters couldn’t be correct.

As Metzger pointed out, based on the latest census data there are only about 630,000 people in the city of voting age. Given the fact that, under typical circumstances, slightly more than 70 percent of the eligible population actually bothers to register, that would place the real number for Detroit somewhere around 450,000 to 500,000 people who should be legally eligible to vote. That’s roughly the same number Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s people arrived at back in 2002.

In fact, one of the few people disputing all this is the person in charge of ensuring the accuracy of voting rolls, City Clerk Jackie Currie.

Which brings us back to Ballenger, who told us that the padded rolls could well result in a lawsuit being filed by some City Council candidate who came up short once the ballots were all tallied.

And that brings us to Maureen D. Taylor, a prominent welfare rights activist who made a failed bid for council. Last week, Taylor filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court, crying foul on a number of fronts.

As part of her suit, Taylor is trying to determine how many of the approximately 40,000 absentee ballots filed in the August primary are valid. She claims a large percentage of those absentee ballots were cast by “persons either dead, no longer residents, no longer citizens or otherwise disqualified as electors in the City of Detroit.”

Assuming that the city didn’t experience some sort of night of the living dead, it’s reasonable to surmise that the dearly departed didn’t actually send those ballots in, but rather were part of some organized effort to swipe the election.

Taylor is calling for an audit of the absentee ballots to determine with certainty to what extent the dead are indeed continuing to participate in the electoral process. Taylor is also questioning why 150,000 applications for absentee ballots were mailed when, even if you include the dead who may or may not be voting, only 40,000 such ballots are actually filed. At the very least, sending out so many applications is a significant waste of money for a city that needs to save every dime it can.

Finally, Taylor is also peeved about the presence of what she’s calling a stealth candidate on the ballot, a woman by the name of Marino Taylor. It’s alleged in the lawsuit that Marino Taylor didn’t live at the address listed on her candidate filings. Furthermore, Marino, who has apparently filed for bankruptcy, “never attended any candidates’ nights, spoke to any grouping or people or conducted any effort at any campaign.”

That stellar effort resulted in Marino collecting 2,289 votes in the final tally, compared to the 9,436 votes collected by Maureen. Even more curious is Maureen’s claim that partial returns released by the city’s Election Commission one day after the polls closed had Marino receiving 8,717 votes.

Add it all up, Maureen says — and things just don’t add up.

And what would any election dispute be without some conspiracy theory thrown in? As Maureen Taylor claims in her lawsuit, her campaign was aimed at the city’s “poorest, most disenfranchised and most oppressed people ... elderly, nursing home residents, welfare recipients, public housing tenants, unemployed, homeless, etc.”

As such, she was a candidate “who has no ties to vested economic or political interests in the City” — interests that would “reasonably desire to keep her out of City government.”

Currie sees no validity whatsoever in Maureen Taylor’s beefs, saying, “I think it’s really crazy, because I don’t know why she’s bringing the lawsuit.”

Instead of moaning about the outcome, Currie seems to be saying, Taylor — that would be Maureen — would better serve the public if she simply encouraged everyone to get out there and cast their ballots in the November general election.

“With her being a candidate and it being very political,” Currie says, “she needs to be getting everybody in Detroit to come to the polls and vote. My office is open any time she wants to come through and look at the procedures, and she has been here and we’ve answered all of her questions. So I don’t know why she’s taking us to court.

“We have 637,000 people that’s registered to vote, and it would be good if she’d help me get 400,000 of them out to vote.”

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