LANSING, Mich. — With eight days until Michigan’s August primary, clerks are working to get ready for a record number of absentee ballots.
The Secretary of State’s office says absentee ballot requests are up 350% compared to the 2016 primary.
Local and county clerks are stressing the importance of returning absentee ballots soon, not only because the election just over a week away, but the pandemic is throwing some obstacles in the mix.
“It has really changed the face of elections here in Michigan,” Chris Swope, the Lansing City Clerk.
Local clerks say absentee voting is taking the forefront of this year’s primaries.
“It’s a double impact because of everyone having the right to vote absentee ballot and then COVID where people are concerned and want to stay home,” explained Swope.
But the pandemic may also be slowing down the process to deliver absentee ballots to the clerk’s office by mail.
”Mail is starting to slow down,” said Barb Byrum, the Ingham County Clerk. “We are hearing that mail is taking longer and seven days is the minimum amount.”
The US postal service won’t confirm a delay.
But it is advising voters to mail their absentee ballots at least by Tuesday, July 27 to make sure they arrive in time.
“Every once in a while, one gets caught somewhere,” said Swope.
Clerks say they’re already seeing a high turnout from absentee ballots.
“We are seeing well over 45% of those ballots that have been mailed to voters have already been received by the clerk,” said Byrum.
This surge in absentee ballots now has clerks preparing for delays in election results.
“There is not enough time even throughout the day for all of those absentee ballots to be processed.”
And they’re planning to have staff working on election night until all the absentee ballots are processed and counted.
“It’s going to be a late night,” said Byrum.
At this point, to guarantee your absentee ballot is counted, clerks suggest you drop off your ballot at local drop off boxes as all ballots must be signed, sealed, and received by 8:00 p.m. on election day.
Ingham County has received a grant to buy a high-speed tabulator.
The machine will expedite the processing of absentee ballots for November’s election.
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