With Election Day less than one week away, Detroit is bracing for the results of the pivotal mayoral battle between current Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and opposing candidate Freman Hendrix. Strident opposition to Kilpatrick’s corrupt administration has tilted the election in Hendrix’s favor according to most polls, but the election could still go either way. While Detroit undoubtedly needs a change in leadership at the top, more attention must be paid to other elected city officials whose behind-the-scenes activities hinder the city’s much-needed improvement. If Detroit is to ever witness a true rebirth, voters and the media must put questionable characters like City Clerk Jackie Currie under the investigatory microscope and hold them accountable.
In an investigation conducted by The Detroit News and published last week, allegations surfaced indicate Currie may have inappropriately handled absentee ballots for the upcoming election. The article reports voting irregularities that range from suspicious to absurd. A team working for Currie has picked up and hand-delivered ballots, a practice illegal by state law since it puts the ballots in jeopardy during transit. Furthermore, ballots have been submitted by persons from vacant or nonexistent buildings and even by deceased persons, drawing attention to a list of 380,000 questionable voters. In Detroit, where absentee ballots account for anywhere between 30 to 60 percent of votes, Currie’s shady practices have the ability to decisively influence the election outcomes.
This is not the first time Currie has been accused of election fraud. Her inability to properly manage election results has plagued her year after year, raising concerns regarding the legitimacy of elected city officials. Currie will be up for re-election next Tuesday; in order for the city to tackle its problems, it must start with securing the voting process – the most fundamental aspect of democracy. If Currie is responsible for altering election results, city government cannot be trusted until she leaves office.
The public depends on news agencies to conduct fair investigations and responsibly report their findings. The media should continue to do its part by thoroughly scrutinizing and publicizing allegations of fraud. Investigations like the one conducted by The Detroit News shine the spotlight on government officials and force them to be accountable to their public.
Detroit residents must pay attention not only while voting for the most prominent position next week – that of mayor – but also while voting for other influential positions. A well-informed voting populace is critical for maintaining the effectiveness of the democratic process. But even if Detroit elects a competent and caring mayor, his actions alone will not be able to outweigh the corruption of an administrative body encumbered by incompetence and neglect. Before next Tuesday, voters should pay attention to news reports and research the candidates appearing on the ballot. If voter turnout is high enough, even Currie’s best attempts to rig the election will fail.