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Detroit advertised wrong date for upcoming election on billboards

A 'Welcome to Detroit' border sign is seen as traffic enters Detroit, Michigan August 3, 2013. Picture taken August 3, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca
A 'Welcome to Detroit' border sign is seen as traffic enters Detroit, Michigan August 3, 2013. Picture taken August 3, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca

DETROIT (Reuters) - Renting billboards to tout Detroit's upcoming election was a good idea until the wrong date was put on 14 of them over this past weekend, city officials said.

Detroit, which has filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, chooses a new mayor in the next general election, on November 5. But billboards that the City of Detroit commissioned read that the election would take place on September 2.

The billboards were initially put up to pitch a previous election. Detroit City Clerk Janet Winfrey said on Tuesday that the local billboard company on Saturday updated the signs to highlight the general election, but with the erroneous September date.

Winfrey, who as city clerk also heads the Detroit Department of Elections, said her department approved samples of the initial billboards but did not see samples of the updated ones. The sign company, International Outdoor Inc based in suburban Detroit, was given the correct date from the elections office, Winfrey said.

"Everybody makes mistakes," Winfrey said on Tuesday, "Every time there is a human element involved, there is a chance of a mistake. Newspapers put out corrections all the time."

The city clerk said Tuesday afternoon that by the end of the day all of the billboards would have the correct information showing.

She remains happy with the billboard company, which charged the city for 11 of the signs, and threw in three free ones as an incentive. Winfrey said that after the mistake, "they threw in two more freebies," which she said would increase the number of billboards, with the correct information, to 16 in the city.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Greg McCune and Leslie Gevirtz)

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