Ferndale, Berkley staff ready for election season

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 27, 2020

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The 2020 election season already has been a peculiar one, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the year more interesting.

Every city has been preparing for in-person voters for the August and November elections. A big question has been whether or not towns will have the necessary personnel in place to handle the number of people who might want to vote at a precinct.

Berkley City Clerk Victoria Mitchell is in charge of organizing the elections for the city’s seven precincts. She said they have had a significant number of their usual election inspectors indicate that they weren’t interested in working the election due to COVID-19, but the city is able through the Secretary of State’s Democracy MVP program to bring in more workers.

“They sent us quite a few (volunteers) … close to 20 workers through the state. That was excellent. That really helped,” said Mitchell. “So we’re fine with workers, and now we’re taking applications for November. But we definitely did need the assistance from the state to help out.”

Ferndale City Clerk Marne McGrath said she overstaffed election inspectors just to make sure the city would have enough people on-site at the precincts. McGrath’s office took applications to work the August election until July 27.

“We are expecting at this point to have all nine precincts open and available,” she said. “Any changes to that would be made later, but at this point we put out the notice to our inspectors, ‘Hey, if you are not comfortable working this time, let us know ASAP,’ and we have enough people who are willing to work that we’ll have minimum staffing at the very least.”

Because of the clarification that people are not required to wear a mask to vote, McGrath stated that she has lost some people that ordinarily would be working for them this year.

“We have full PPE, with masks and shields and everything else to protect our workers and our voters, but we are still recruiting (for November),” she said.

“Lines might be shorter, but wait times will probably be longer because there will be less inspectators than people are used to,” McGrath added.

Mitchell said Berkley made the decision early on to have all the precincts open for August, as the city wanted to run the precincts and have all the PPE and signage in place as a practice run for November.

Outside of in-person voting, both McGrath and Mitchell said both cities already have sent out a high number of ballots for the August election. As of last week, Ferndale had sent out 5,397 ballots and Berkley had sent out 4,500 ballots.

Residents will have until 8 p.m. Aug. 4 to turn in their ballots, but Mitchell hopes people will get them in earlier as a way to help the city clerks everywhere.

“It is a great help for our Clerk’s Office,” she said. “Of course, they have the time that they need, but if someone had their ballot all filled out and it was just on their counter … that would be excellent.”