Clerks expect absentee ballot surge
Tue, 09/22/2020 - 1:07pm caleb
Officials urge voters to send completed ballots early for November 3 general election
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, area election officials dealt with a record number of absentee ballots during the August 4, 2020 primary election, and they’re expecting even more for the upcoming November 3 general election.
City of Grayling Clerk Lisa Johnson said the city received “almost triple” the usual amount of absentee ballots for the August election.
“I expect it to be even higher,” said Johnson with regard to the number of absentee ballots anticipated for the November 3 election.
Widespread absentee ballot usage is still fairly new to Michigan.
“Michigan voters approved Proposal 3 in 2018 to allow absentee voting without having to provide a specific reason,” according to the Secretary of State’s office.
According to the Secretary of State, “more than 2.2 million absentee ballot requests have been submitted as of Tuesday, September 15,” for the November 3 election.
Local clerks said voters – prior to the August election – had an opportunity to request absentee ballots for both the 2020 primary election and the November general election, but those that did not can still make the request for the upcoming November vote.
“Voters who voted in the primary by absentee ballot had the opportunity to request one for each election. So if they checked the box for both elections, they will automatically be sent a ballot as soon as we receive the ballots,” said Cynthia L. Infante-Inman, Lovells Township Clerk.
Johnson urged voters who do make absentee ballot requests now to check the mailing addresses listed on the return envelopes before they send the request forms. She said there was an issue with the request forms in August because the return envelopes provided by the mailings listed the city’s physical address instead of its post office box mailing address.
Johnson said City of Grayling voters can call City Hall at (989) 348-2131 to place a request for an absentee voter ballot, or to check on the status of a mailed request. According to the city, its mailing address is PO Box 549, Grayling, MI, 49738.
Other municipalities in the county also use PO boxes.
Grayling Charter Township’s mailing address is PO Box 521, Grayling, MI, 49738. South Branch Township’s mailing address is listed as PO Box 606, Roscommon, MI, 48653. The Frederic Township mailing address is PO Box 78, Frederic, MI, 49733.
Frederic Township officials said Frederic voters can call the township office at 348-8778 ext. 4 to request an absentee ballot application.
“We do have absentee voter ballot applications for those who haven’t registered with us to have their ballot mailed to their home. I welcome calls to check and make sure they have turned their application in to our office, by mail or in person. We will mail the application if they are unable to come by the office. We are open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said Dorothy Moore, Frederic Township Interim Clerk.
Sandy Baynham, Maple Forest Township Clerk, said voters from Maple Forest can request an absentee ballot using several different methods.
“Registered Maple Forest voters can email, call, or send a picture of their application via email,” Baynham said.
The email address for the Maple Forest Township Clerk is firstname.lastname@example.org. The township’s phone number is (989) 348-5794 and its mailing address is 2520 W. Marker Road, Grayling, MI 49738.
“For those dropping off absentee ballot applications, you may put them in the secure drop box, and I will process them when I receive ballots,” Baynham said.
Beaver Creek Township’s website offers its voters an option to permanently register for election absentee ballot applications. To do so, Beaver Creek voters can visit www.beavercreektownship.com, use the “Government” tab to drop down to the “Voting and Elections” option, and then click on the words “Request to be placed on the permanent absent voter application list” in the upper right hand corner of the page.
“You no longer need a reason to vote absentee. The clerk’s office maintains a ‘Permanent Absent Voter’ list of voters who wish to be sent an absentee voter ballot application prior to each election,” according to Beaver Creek officials.
Beaver Creek Township’s office is located at 8888 S. Grayling Road, Grayling, MI, 49738.
Frederic Township is offering a drop box for people for absentee ballots. The township’s office is located at 6470 Manistee Street, Frederic, MI 49733.
“I want to let the people of Frederic Township know that we now have a locked drop box for their convenience for their absentee ballots. It is located on the side of the township building, just south of the library at 6470 Manistee Street. It will be checked each day through election day,” Moore said.
Grayling Charter Township also has a drop box.
“We have a secure drop box we check twice a day except for weekends,” Grayling Charter Township officials said.
The township encourages “absentee voting for the vulnerable and anyone who has to work on election day.”
Local clerks, as well as Michigan’s Secretary of State, are advising voters to allow ample time for their completed ballots to reach voting locations, or to deliver them in person to the appropriate voting site.
“My advice is that you give yourself plenty of time to return the ballot by mail,” Infante-Inman said. “The volume of mailed ballots has increased significantly with the pandemic. If you have any doubt about whether there is enough time for the postal system to return your ballot to us, please bring it to the township hall yourself or by proxy. We have a secure locked box on the north side of the township hall building where you may drop your ballot. Also, we have a new secure locked ballot drop box provided by the Federal Government’s CARES Act. It is located next to our mailbox at the driveway entrance.”
The Lovells Township Hall is located at 8405 Twin Bridge Road, Grayling, MI 49738.
Baynham said Maple Forest Township “didn’t have any issues with absentee ballot requests or submissions” in August other than a few ballots that didn’t arrive in time.
“We had a few late arrivals, but they were postmarked after the election had taken place,” Baynham said.
Lovells Township also reported a few late ballots in August.
“I received six ballots in the mail the day after the last primary election. In Michigan, votes are only tabulated if they are returned before the close of polls at 8 p.m.,” Infante-Inman said.
Clerks are urging voters to send their ballots early and make sure they’re properly completed.
“I would advise voters to mark their ballot and return it in the provided pre-addressed return envelope as promptly as possible to avoid the last minute mailing rush,” Baynham said.
“Also, please be sure to sign the envelope. Without your signature, we cannot verify the identity of the voter and it cannot be tabulated. Also, it’s important to provide your phone number on your application so that if we do have problems with your ballot, we can correct and your vote will be counted,” Infante-Inman said.
“It’s crucial that all Michiganders know how to safely exercise their right to vote and make a plan ahead of the November election. Right now, Michigan citizens can register to vote and request an absentee ballot online at Michigan.gov/Vote,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “They also have a number of options to vote safely and securely, including from home, early at their clerk’s office, and in person at the polls, and I encourage them to make their voting plan now.”
According to the governor’s office, local clerks will be able to start sending absentee ballots to voters on Thursday, September 24.
Local clerks said they’re available to help people with the process if they need it.
“Please feel free to contact your township clerk with any questions you may have,” Infante-Inman said.
The Department of State’s Michigan Voter Information Center has a November 3 ballot available for viewing online at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/PublicBallot/Index. Users can select the Election, County, Jurisdiction, and Precinct and then click “View the ballot” to see every race and proposal.