By David Fleet
A mix of new absentee ballot rules, restricting in person voting due to the coronavirus and absentee applications mailed to all registered voters state-wide has kept area clerks busy.
In Brandon Township, with 12,612 registered voters, 2,840 absentee ballots have been sent as of July 20 for the Aug. 4 state primary. In comparison, a total of 833 absentee ballots were issued in the 2016 primary. A total of 765 or 91.84 percent were returned.
Brandon Township Clerk Candee Allen believes part of the increase is due to the 2018 law change to allow, “No Reason,” to obtain an absentee ballot. The 2016 primary was held before voters in 2018 amended the state constitution to allow all Michigan voters to cast ballots from home
“Several voters stated they didn’t like to chose a reason and thought they had to leave the community or they could get caught lying,” she said.
Allen also said some voters are asking for new ballots due to fact they crossed parties, over voted or under voted or just changed their mind on candidates.
“Please know you may get as many ballots as needed, in order to vote your way, but will need to return the old ballot first and then it’s spoiled before a new ballot is issued,” she said.
Brandon Township’s increase in absentee ballot numbers follow higher numbers statewide ahead of the Aug. 4 state primary, with more than 1.8 million requested and more than 600,000 already returned, according to a report from the Michigan Secretary of State. The total number of absent voter ballots cast in the August 2016 state primary was just 484,094.
“The volume of absentee ballot requests and returns we’re seeing underscores the near universal enthusiasm Michigan voters share for casting their ballot in a way that is safe, secure and convenient,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “I am encouraged that this enthusiasm remains unaffected by attempts to spread misinformation about the integrity and security of voting by mail. The numbers make it clear that voters trust our system and are eager to participate in it.”
In Groveland Township, with 4,732 registered voters, 1,120 absentee ballots were issued for the Aug. 4 state primary as of July 21. A total of 813 absentee ballots were sent out for the 2016 primary. A total of 792 or 97.4 percent were returned.
Atlas Township also reports a substantial increase in absentee ballots.
“We have sent out 1,584 absentee ballots thus far,” said Katie Vick, Atlas Township Clerk. “To put that into perspective, in March for the Presidential Primary we issued 834 total absentee ballots. The Presidential election in 2016 we issued a total of 1,121. Normally we have just under 1,000 voters on the permanent absentee voter list so our volume is anticipated to more than double. It’s been a lot of strain on me and my staff to meet the demand but overall the process has been going well. We just ask for patience as we are all meandering through this unusual situation together.”
Election day will certainly look different, added Vick.
“While we encourage and support absentee voting, we are doing everything we can to ensure anyone voting at a precinct on election day can do so in a safe and orderly manner.”