Early absentee ballot voting begins in Michigan

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 6, 2020

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Election clerks across the state have opened their offices for early voting in preparation for the Nov. 3 election.

Clerks are required by the state constitution to open their offices for early voting and mail absentee ballots by the 40th day before the Nov. 3 election, which was Sept. 24.

“Michigan has already held three successful elections this year, and we are on track to see more success and record-breaking turnout in the general election,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement. “Voters can safely and securely vote absentee from home, early at their local clerk’s office or at their polling place on Election Day.”

Due to the passage of the statewide ballot proposal 18-3, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan may now request an absent voter ballot without providing a reason.

More than 2.39 million absentee ballots have already been requested — more than ever before — and when voters receive their ballots, they are encouraged to fill them out, sign the back of the return envelope, and — as soon as possible — place them in the mail or hand-deliver them to their clerk’s office or ballot drop box. Clerk office and drop box locations can be found at Michigan.gov/Vote.

Voters who intend to cast absentee ballots but have not already requested them are encouraged to do so immediately at Michigan.gov/Vote. Michiganders with a state driver’s license or identification card can also register to vote.

Rochester Clerk Lee Ann O’Connor said she has received over 4,300 absentee ballot requests thus far from the city’s 11,170 registered voters. During the August primary, she issued 3,296 absentee ballots and received 2,612 back.

The Clerk’s Office maintains a list of voters who wish to automatically be mailed an absentee voter application for each election. Whether or not voters are on the permanent absent voter list, O’Connor said an absentee voter application must be returned to the city Clerk’s Office to confirm that voters wish to receive an absentee ballot. Those interested in being added to the mailing list for absentee voter applications should submit a signed, written request to elections@rochestermi.org or to the City Clerk, 400 6th St., Rochester, MI 48307.

The Rochester Clerk’s Office will be open on noon-5 p.m. Saturday Oct. 3 and Oct. 24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 31, and after business hours by appointment as needed.

Absentee ballots can be dropped off inside Rochester City Hall or at the drop box on the outside/westside of City Hall and the lobby of the Rochester Police Department. To apply for an absentee ballot or for questions, the Rochester City Clerk’s Office can be reached at (248) 733-3700.

“Don’t wait until Election Day to register to vote. This can be done anytime, so register and vote early,” O’Connor said.

Rochester Hills Clerk Tina Barton said the Rochester Hills Clerk’s Office, at 1000 Rochester Hills Drive, is open for extended hours — until 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through the election, with Saturday hours 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 24 and 31 to issue and collect absentee ballots.

In Rochester Hills, nearly half of the city’s over 56,000 registered voters have requested an absentee ballot. That number, Barton said, continues to grow daily.

“We, so far, have sent just under 26,000 absentee ballots,” she explained. “We’re averaging, right now, at least 100 per day. On Monday, we got a little over 300.”

For the primary election, Barton said she issued a total of 20,638 ballots in August, and just over 16,368 ballots were returned to the city.

“A lot of people in August requested absentee ballots and then ended up going to the precincts to vote, so I think a lot of people did it in case they closed the precincts — we heard that,” Barton said.

For the November election, absentee ballots can be returned via mail or dropped off at one of two drop boxes at Rochester Hills City Hall.

“The best option for a voter — and probably the most secure and an option where they know we’ve received it — is to bring the ballot back themselves. We have a drop box in our parking lot that is available 24/7 and is right near a lamppost. It’s bolted to the ground, and there’s a security camera facing right at the box,” Barton said.

For more information, call the Rochester Hills Clerk’s Office at (248) 656-4630, email clerk soffice@rochesterhills.org or visit www.rochesterhills.org/elections.

In Oakland Township, Deputy Clerk Roxanne Thatcher said she dropped 7,000 absentee ballots in the mail the evening of Sept. 24, with more ballot requests coming in each day.

“Almost half of our voters want absentee ballots right now,” she said. “And we have another whole chunk of applications for absentee ballots to process that we haven’t even got to, so it’s a little busy right now.”

The Oakland Township Clerk’s Office, 4393 Collins Road, is open to the public weekdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and after hours by appointment. The Clerk’s Office will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 31, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. for people who want to register to vote or turn in their absentee ballots in person.

Thatcher encourages absentee ballot voters to turn in their ballots either via mail — if they do it a few weeks in advance — or at the new 24-hour drop box located across from the entrance at Township Hall.

“I encourage using the drop box. It’s 24 hours, and you can drop it off anytime of the day and night. Then you aren’t leaving it to the mail, which can take extra long,” Thatcher explained.

For the primary election, she said, she issued just over 5,200 ballots in August, and just over 4,060 were returned.

“We got a whole chunk of absentee ballots that were late for the primary,” she said.

Voters can complete an online absentee ballot application or voter registration form at Michigan.gov/Vote or submit an application to their local clerk.

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