Clerks anticipate increase in absentee voting

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published September 17, 2019


OAKLAND COUNTY — Last November, residents in Michigan approved Proposition 3, a proposal that — among other new regulations — now allows same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

With the first major election since then coming up Nov. 5, voters might be wondering what they have to do if they want an absentee ballot.

Before Proposition 3 was passed, there were six reasons listed on the absentee ballot application for why a voter was requesting one. They were if the resident is 60 years of age or older; if they’re physically unable to attend the polls without assistance; if they have been appointed as an election precinct inspector; if they expect to be absent from the community on Election Day; if they can’t attend the polls because of religious beliefs; or if they can’t attend because they are incarcerated and awaiting arraignment or trial.

“Access was more limited than it is now,” said Ferndale City Clerk Marne McGrath. “No-reason absentee voting is something that the last secretary of state and clerks have been wanting for a long time.”

McGrath said anyone who is a registered voter can request an absentee ballot. They can do so by registering for one at City Hall.

The actual ballots are not ready yet, but once they are, McGrath said, they will be mailed to voters who have submitted an application.

“We haven’t yet had an election, but some of the other communities who’ve had May and August elections have seen a huge increase in the number of people voting by absentee,” she said. “We’re anticipating that kind of turnout here as well.”

Huntington Woods City Clerk Heidi Barckholtz said the city has seen an increase in people registering for absentee ballots. So far, she’s counted close to 200 new absentee voters on the list.

The city has been trying to let residents know of the option to vote absentee, said Barckholtz, by sending out notices in its water bills to encourage people to fill out a form or contact City Hall.

“We promoted it, and so I was expecting — especially because Huntington Woods has such a high voter turnout — that we would get an increase,” she said.

In addition to no-reason absentee voting, voters also can register to vote on Election Day.

“The 30-day requirement to register prior to an election has been eliminated. So you can register up to and on Election Day,” McGrath said. “You can do that whole one-stop shopping of coming in on Election Day and registering to vote and picking up and voting your absentee ballot right here. It really improves the access for people.”

As Huntington Woods is a small municipality, Barckholtz said she doesn’t expect too much trouble with people registering on Election Day to vote, as compared to a bigger city.

“As far as us getting ready for it, (it’s) just trying to make yourself (as) aware as possible for understanding the new rules,” she said. “Just being as prepared as you can, as knowledgeable as you can.”