Absentee ballots see dramatic increase in Macomb County

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published March 2, 2020

 The new appearance of the envelopes containing absentee ballots, top, has many election officials warning voters to take a close look at their mail over the next few weeks so that they don’t accidentally throw the envelopes away. An example of the envelopes previously used for absentee ballots is at the bottom.

The new appearance of the envelopes containing absentee ballots, top, has many election officials warning voters to take a close look at their mail over the next few weeks so that they don’t accidentally throw the envelopes away. An example of the envelopes previously used for absentee ballots is at the bottom.

File photo by Brendan Losinski

MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County officials are seeing a “very significant” increase in the amount of absentee ballots prior to the March 10 election.

On Feb. 28, Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Fred Miller said that data compiled through Feb. 24 — the most recent data available at press time — saw a 73.7% increase in the amount of absentee ballots sent across the county.

By that date, 97,446 absentee ballots were received. In comparison to the same timeframe prior to the March 8, 2016, election, absentee ballots at that point totaled 56,223.

Some local numbers are staggering: Residents in Eastpointe requested 3,224 absentee ballots, compared to 1,121 ballots in 2016. That’s a 188% increase in four years.

In Clinton Township, numbers have “virtually doubled,” from 7,060 ballots in 2016 to 14,070 this year. Miller said that may be a byproduct of a “hotly contested” marijuana ballot proposal.

The March 10 countywide ballot also includes a Democratic Party presidential primary, a Macomb County Art Institute Authority (DIA) millage, and a Macomb Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement Millage Proposal. Local ballots include a public safety millage renewal in Center Line, and a Lakeview Public Schools operating millage proposal.

“It’s unclear whether these are people who maybe voted at the polls in 2016, and would have otherwise done so unless for no-reason absentee voting. … “It could be indicative of an increased interest in this election, not only candidates at top of ballot running for president, but also local and regional issues on the ballot that have garnered interest”

The state amendment, known as Proposition 3, was approved by 63% of Macomb County voters in November 2018. It authorized automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting and straight ticket voting.

In November 2019, 12 different Macomb County communities cast more votes by mail than at the polls. About 44,760, or 51.5%, of the approximate 87,000 votes cast in that election were done via mail.

The Clerk’s Office publicized a change prior to the upcoming election, in the form of different color envelopes — blue envelopes are mailed to voters, while green envelopes are used to mail envelopes to local clerks, via the United States Postal Service.

On Feb. 28, Miller said about half of the ballots had been returned. Registered voters have until 4 p.m. Monday, March 9, to return them in person, or can mail envelopes by Friday, March 6.

He urges as many citizens to take advantage of this voting method.

“I know local clerks are working hard and feeling the pressure because of the amount of work,” he said, adding that it’s important for people to know absentee ballots are counted the same manner as in-person votes.

As for reports of issues with USPS processing and delivery, he hopes “that it will eventually train the Post Office” to minimize misrouting or mishandling.

“With any change there’s bound to be some learning curve,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been working hard to let people know about the new appearance.”