Detroit Pistons, Michigan Secretary of State unveil ballot drop box before Election Day

Detroit Free Press

Nisa Khan
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Pistons are helping the city’s voters get their heads in the game.

In partnership with Michigan’s Secretary of State and Detroit’s City Clerk, the NBA team hosted an unveiling of an official ballot drop box at the entrance of the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center on 690 Amsterdam Thursday afternoon. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the unveiling was a vital event for Detroit. 

“This is really a historic moment for the city,” she said. “And frankly for the country, because this is one of the first teams, if not the first team, to step up and say ‘We want to be a partner in making democracy work this year.’ “

Benson said she was grateful to the Pistons and the city clerk, especially during a time with multiple pressures on the system, including a record-breaking number of people voting by mail. The ballot drop boxes near the center and 29 other locations across Detroit will make voting easier for absentee voters.

Benson acknowledged a package passed by the Michigan House where politicians on “both sides of the aisle” worked with the state and Detroit to ensure the upcoming elections adapted to this year’s changes and pandemic. 

More: Michigan voter who wants to cast an early ballot? You can start now

“We’re now calling on the state Senate to do their job and do their part and pass this important package of legislation,” she said.

Benson said the tallying of votes will start on Election Day, when her office is providing more employees and security to ensure the accuracy of the results. 

Detroit Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem said he had spoken with the players, who said they wanted to be involved. 

“We’re living in challenging and turbulent times … when we talk to the players, really, voting sometimes seems inadequate to solving all the problems that we face,” Tellem said. “But at the end of the day, it really is the most important way that we can effectuate positive change in our communities. So it starts with a vote.”

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said she appreciated the team’s social efforts were starting at home, especially as so many look up to sports teams. She said the Pistons Performance Center will also be part of the receiving board, which ensures accountability of election precincts. 

Winfrey said the city is making sure every district is well-represented with a drop box or a voter center, emphasizing that she is not only looking at high turnout areas but also low turnout neighborhoods. 

Detroit’s voter turnout in 2016 was about 50%, she said. She does not have an estimate for the Nov. 3 election, but the office may be counting 200,000 absentee ballots. Winfrey said it is going to be “an election week,” since the city will now have more processing time to count all of its ballots.

“And in all my time at (an) election, this is the first time where the entire community seems to want to be involved,” Winfrey said. “And it’s such a welcome change for me.

“We all should always take part and take a personal interest in the process, regardless of who’s on the ballot.”

When asked about her recent tweets exchanged with and referencing President Donald Trump’s accusations that the elections were rigged, Benson said she was just interested in fighting misinformation and that data was on the side of democracy. 

“It is notable, and it is something that I don’t think any of us would have had to predict would be having to be done at this moment in time. Nevertheless, it’s what the moment requires,” she said. “In my view, whether it’s the president of the United States or anyone else with a significant platform trying to spread misinformation, my job as an election officer is to push back (with) accurate facts.”

After the unveiling, the Pistons said volunteers will distribute door hangers in New Center and Detroit neighborhoods with low registration numbers. These hangers will have five steps for how to vote written on them. 

More: Sen. Harris tells Detroiters: Election will determine nation’s future for years

The Pistons drop box is part of the team’s social justice efforts.

“Other initiatives have included pop-up census and voter registration events, designating the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center as a receiving board for the Aug. 4 and Nov. 3 elections, distributing PSAs from Dwane Casey, Blake Griffin, Dave Bing and Rick Mahorn aimed at spurring voter participation and utilizing over 150 employees as election day volunteers,” a news release said. 

Michiganders are able to start voting absentee. If you are registered, you can get an absentee ballot and turn it in right at the clerk’s office. If you vote by mail, you should send the ballot back immediately.  

A list of voting centers is available online. Other drop box locations include:

  • Pistons Performance Center, 690 Amsterdam (at Second Ave.)
  • Greater Emmanuel Institutional, 19190 Schaefer Hwy.
  • Liberty Temple, 17188 Greenfield Road (near 8 Mile)
  • North Rosedale Park Community House, 18445 Scarsdale St. (near Puritan)
  • Unity Baptist Church, 7500 Tireman
  • WCCCD Downtown, 1001 W. Fort St. (at Lafayette)
  • Williams Recreation Center, 8431 Rosa Parks Blvd. (at 14th)

As for the upcoming season, Tellem said at the conference the start is uncertain, but may be in January 2020. 

Nisa Khan is a data intern for the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @mnisakhan

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