Election officials remind absentee voters not to miss their ballots

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 7, 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 ithe 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 ithe envelopes away. An example of the envelopes previously used for absentee ballots is at the bottom.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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ROSEVILLE — City clerks and other election officials are warning residents not to miss their absentee ballots after the appearance of the envelopes containing them has been changed.

Michael Doyle, the communications director for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, said the change comes “after decades without an update.” Now, blue envelopes will be mailed to voters while green envelopes will be used to mail envelopes back to local clerks.

“The absentee ballot envelopes were modified to better conform with United States Postal Service guidelines and be easier to use,” Doyle said.

The modernized design will also include other details that will impact voters and process efficiencies, including: the voter’s signature is on the backside of the envelope, the same side voters will see when sealing the envelope; the ballot label will be on the backside of the envelope, allowing for staff members issuing ballots — as well as election inspectors — to view the ballot number without flipping over the envelope; and clear language to explain delivery options.

Macomb County Clerk and Register of Deeds Fred Miller said the new design strays from the traditional manila envelopes that voters were accustomed to. This redesign is aimed as a warning to voters, so that they do not discard ballots by mistake.

The change was initially announced by Benson after her office worked with clerks statewide.

It was changed in coordination with the adoption of the state amendment known as Proposition 3, which was approved by 63% of Macomb County voters and 70% of Oakland County voters.

“We would hate to have anybody inadvertently throw away their ballots,” Miller said.

“The new envelopes look a little like something you might get from Publishers Clearing House,” remarked Roseville City Clerk Richard Steenland. “We don’t want to see anybody throwing them away thinking they’re junk mail.”

Seniors have increasingly utilized absentee ballots, Miller said, due to not having to wait in line or rushing across town to a particular polling location — or even risking attempting to vote at the wrong location.

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

Miller hopes more voters will take advantage of absentee ballots in the future, especially with major elections on the horizon.

“I expect it will be more and more, and continue to grow,” he said. “We know that voting is a learned behavior. … This is a new way that people need to learn to vote by mail and learn the convenience of it.”

Clerks say that, except for the appearance of the envelope, there should be no practical changes to how people vote as an absentee.

“Just watch for the (blue) and white envelope. Your ballot is enclosed, so don’t miss it,” remarked Harper Woods City Clerk Leslie Frank. “The only thing that has changed is the ballot envelope. The application itself is the same, as is the envelope it comes in.”

Election officials want to spread the word so no one loses out on their constitutional right to vote because of a misunderstanding over an envelope.

“We mail (the applications) out a month before the election on March 10, so we are hoping to mail them out around Feb. 7,” Frank said. “There is a deadline to order an absentee ballot. They can come in person until Monday, Feb. 10, until 4 p.m. They can register to vote, if they are not registered, up until Election Day itself.”

This year’s elections will take place Tuesday, March 10; Tuesday, Aug. 4; and Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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