RosevilleOctober 31, 2012
Ballots mailed, but not received
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
ROSEVILLE — Two weeks from Election Day, the Clerk’s Office is hectic — there’s equipment to test, workers to train, ballots to account for, and this year, a crisis to thwart.
As many as 2,000 absentee ballots are unaccounted for and could be missing.
“Normally you get some phone calls where someone hasn’t received their ballot, and you just tell them to give it a couple days and if you still don’t have it, give us a call back, but this year we’ve been getting about 12-15 phone calls a day for the past week where people aren’t getting their absentee ballots,” Roseville Clerk Rich Steenland said.
The missing ballots have all been tracked to the same shipment — the first bulk mailing Oct. 9.
Subsequent bulk mailings have gone out a few times a week since then, as residents continue to request absentee ballots, but there haven’t been any problems with those shipments. The majority of the ballots sent after Oct. 9 have already been filled out and returned to City Hall.
But of the 3,500 ballots sent out Oct. 9, less than 2,000 are accounted for.
Steenland said ordinarily this might not worry him, but with such a high number of ballots reported missing, it’s cause for concern.
“Based on my return rate, I’m not overly concerned,” Steenland said. “Usually a good number of them get returned right away, then they sort of trickle in for a while, and then a good week or so before the election is when you really get slammed with them. If I wasn’t receiving this magnitude of phone calls, I wouldn’t be overly concerned, but I have never received this magnitude of calls before.”
With approximately 100 ballots confirmed missing, there’s no way to tell how many of the 2,000 unaccounted-for ballots actually made it to their destination.
“I know they were shipped,” Steenland said. “I took them to the post office myself. I hand-delivered them. I know which ballots were in that bunch, and every ballot that hasn’t arrived yet was a part of that shipment.”
Many of the missing ballots were sent out of state to Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona and Illinois, but others had destinations in Michigan. In some cases, Steenland explained, a wife received hers, but the husband didn’t, and vice versa.
“I only have control over them when they are in my office,” Steenland said. “Once I take them to the post office and ship them out, it is out of my control. And I know things happen. Just like us, the Postal Service is short staffed, they’ve had their cutbacks, but they were mailed Oct. 9; even if there was a delay or a mix-up, they should have gotten to where they were going by now.”
According to the United States Postal Service, though, they have. Ed Moore, the Detroit area USPS communications manager, was unable to be reached by phone at press time, but said in an email to the Eastsider that all ballots were processed and delivered.
“The Postal Service takes very seriously the processing and timely delivery of all political mail, including absentee ballots. We have conducted a thorough sweep of our facilities and have determined that the absentee ballots that were presented to the Postal Service (have) been processed and delivered.”
But with the amount of voters claiming they haven’t received them, Steenland’s not taking any chances; to prevent last-minute problems for those voters on Election Day, he’s contacting the remaining 2,000 voters whose ballots went out in that first shipment but haven’t been returned.
There isn’t a database for absentee requests, though, so in order to contact those voters, he has to go though the 3,500 requests sent out in the first mailing by hand, sorting out the 2,000 unaccounted-for ballots.
Steenland’s not worried about any sort of fraudulent activity on Election Day. Even if all 2,000 unaccounted-for ballots turned out to be missing, new ballots could be issued. All ballots determined to be missing are spoiled — rendering them invalid and unable to be used in the election.
His only real concern with missing ballots is assuring that everyone who requested one gets one.
“Everyone deserves a fair opportunity to vote and for their vote to be counted, and I want to make sure everyone has that opportunity to vote, and there is no question about it: I will do that,” he said.
Anyone who has not received a requested absentee ballot is asked to contact the Clerk’s Office at (586) 445-5443.
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