Voter turnout in this week’s Birmingham city elections, it was reported on Wednesday, reached 98 percent.
Yes, 98 percent. Which would make the voter participation in the Oakland County community’s City Commission race a big news item, perhaps a national news story.
Except the figure was not correct. Maybe it was actually 75 percent? 50 percent? No, it was 10 percent, substantially below the turnout figures for many neighboring Oakland County communities.
The 98 percent number was reported by Downtown Birmingham magazine. Among the weird aspects of this story is that the magazine wrote in the second paragraph of its election coverage that 15,600 of the city’s 16,000 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday. Yet the published online article never specified that those numbers would signify an eye-popping 98 percent turnout.
If you want to point fingers, it appears that the magazine reported the faulty figures based on official results collected by the Oakland County Clerk’s Office. As of this afternoon, the Clerk’s Office website is still reporting that 15,600 ballots were cast in the election to determine a contest between eight candidates running for four City Commission seats.
It took a while but the acting city clerk in Birmingham, Cheryl Arft, eventually reported this morning that just 10 percent of the electorate voted. In response to Politics Central’s queries, she also reported that the miniscule 10 percent figure is typical for a Birmingham city election. The average voter participation countywide on Tuesday was about 20 percent, with several cities well above that.
In Birmingham, a city of more than 20,000 residents, officials say they are mystified about the huge discrepancy in reported voter turnout in their town. But they are apparently unaware that county Clerk Lisa Brown has indicated that precinct-by-precinct numbers in Birmingham show several areas with voter participation in the 20-plus percent range, on up to 34 percent.
At this point, it appears that those numbers cannot possibly be accurate, though there are no indications that the votes tallied for each candidate are inaccurate.
Nonetheless, this mish-mash may not bode well for the credibility of the Birmingham election results in the 2020 presidential vote.