Clerks brace for next week’s election

By: Brendan Losinski, Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 2, 2016

 Bloomfield Hills residents Lynn Gilmour and her son, Sean Gilmour, get their ballot during the 2010 November election.

Bloomfield Hills residents Lynn Gilmour and her son, Sean Gilmour, get their ballot during the 2010 November election.

File photo by David Schreiber

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Unless you’re blissfully unaware, you’ve probably heard by now that there’s a big election coming up next week.

Well, local clerks have heard too, and as the public officers charged with overseeing elections, they’ve been preparing for months for what’s expected to be a busy day at the polls.

Bloomfield Township Clerk Jan Roncelli said presidential elections, like this one, always draw more interest for voters. In fact, the way things are going with this contentious race for U.S. president, she expects more than 80 percent of voters to cast ballots.

“To date, we have issued 10,036 absentee ballots, with a return rate of 53 percent,” she said last week. “Most of our voters don’t return their ballots until the week before the election, and they can do so until 8 p.m. Nov. 8.”

One interesting tidbit, Roncelli noted, is the fact that military and overseas absentee ballots have jumped by 50 percent this year over the last presidential election, when more than 200 tickets were issued. This year, it was more than 300.

That’s still not as many ballots as Roncelli’s office issued in 2012, when nearly 12,000 absentee ballots were distributed. But there’s still time, she said. The last day the Clerk’s Office can mail a ballot is this Saturday, Nov. 5. Since there must be a valid reason to obtain an absentee ballot, she urges voters not to wait that long to request a mailed ticket.

Bloomfield Hills City Clerk Amy Burton said her office is working hard to accommodate absentee voters too, along with those braving the polls next Tuesday for the big election. That includes getting the word out for what every resident needs to cast their ballot smoothly.

“Those who plan to visit the precinct on Election Day should come prepared with photo identification,” Burton said in an email. “Bloomfield Hills voters will notice the polling locations have been expanded with additional voting booths to accommodate the higher voter turnout expected for a presidential election.”

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said the Clerk’s Office continues to issue absentee ballots, which he said is an indication of strong participation on Election Day.

But Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t the only two names on this year’s ballot. All of the voters in the Eagle’s coverage area will have to decide countywide proposals like the Regional Transit Authority transportation millage, along with other local issues.

In Bloomfield Township, former supervisor candidate David Thomas, who lost his race against incumbent Supervisor Leo Savoie with 47.2 percent of the vote during the Aug. 2 primary election, has been promoting himself as a write-in option in the Nov. 8 election. With no other party nominees, the Republican winners of the primary election will run alone on next week’s ballot.

Villagers in Franklin will have 10 charter amendments to approve or deny, along with a street improvement millage. That’s on top of the races for the Board of Education for both Bloomfield Hills Schools and Birmingham Public Schools.

But according to Southfield Township Clerk Sharon Tischler, who oversees elections for the villages of Franklin, Bingham Farms and Beverly Hills, it’s tough to tell what the hot button issue will be just yet.

“It’s hard to gauge or predict voter turnout based on local issues,” said Tischler. ”We always see a spike and increase because of the presidential election, so there’s sure to be more people voting than usual in this election.”

She added that her office has already received a lot of questions from Franklin residents over the number of charter amendments on their ballot, and she suspects that could lead to some longer lines in that area.

But the wait shouldn’t be too long if voters come ready — and informed.

“People should come prepared when they come to their polling place,” said Tischler. “You don’t have to vote on everything on the ballot, but you should be informed about the issues and candidates you want to vote on before arriving. Everyone should be an informed voter, and this will help reduce wait times as well.”

Polls open at 7 a.m. Nov. 8 and close at 8 p.m. Those in line by closing will be able to cast a vote.

For more information on what’s on your ballot, contact your municipal clerk.

You can also review profiles for candidates on the ballot, along with the complete language for all ballot proposals online at candgnews.com.

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