Local clerks gear up for general election

By: Mark Vest | Metro | Published October 12, 2022

File photo by Patricia O'Blenes


METRO DETROIT — The voting process looks a lot different than it did even as recently as five years ago for many Michigan residents.

The primary reason for that is Proposal 3, which passed in 2018 and allows people to vote via an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason.

A press release from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office dated Oct. 4 states that more than 1.5 million Michigan voters have requested absentee ballots.

Since Proposal 3 passed, Keego Harbor City Clerk and City Manager Tammy Neeb said that absentee voting has increased “quite a bit.”

“You don’t have to have a reason to vote absentee, so a (lot of) people are voting absentee now,” Neeb said.

Voters can submit an absentee ballot application via mail, online or in person at their local clerk’s office.

After submitting an application, the mailing status of an online application can be tracked online at Michigan.gov/Vote. Residents can go to the same site to register to vote or update their registration through Oct. 24.

Residents can register to vote up to and on Election Day in person at their local clerk’s office, and they can request and submit an absentee ballot during the same visit.

According to the release, absentee ballots must be received by each voter’s local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. Nov. 8 to be counted.

Voting hours for the election are 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 8, and ballots can be placed in drop boxes up until 8 p.m., according to Farmington Hills City Clerk Pam Smith.

While Smith isn’t yet certain what the percentage of in-person voters will be, as compared to those who choose to vote absentee, she is expecting to see a large number of absentee ballots.

“We are tending to trend more absentee,” Smith said. “We’ve kind of seen that the last several elections. We do expect that to continue.”

Farmington Clerk Mary Mullison estimates that 60% of voters will likely vote via an absentee ballot.

She is expecting a larger turnout than a normal gubernatorial election.

“Just from the way the world is at the moment, everybody’s interested in voting,” Mullison said. “So if you’re not registered yet, don’t wait till Election Day to get registered, even though you could register on Election Day. Try to be proactive and get stuff done early.”

West Bloomfield Township Clerk Debbie Binder stated that the township set a record in the 2020 general election with a 79% turnout.

“Since Proposal 3 of 2018, which provided for no-reason absentee voting, we have seen a steady increase of voters choosing to vote by absentee ballot,” Binder stated via email. “West Bloomfield is a strong voting community. … The majority of our voters chose to cast their vote by absentee ballot.”

Mullison said that Farmington also had a 79% turnout for the 2020 general election.

Binder expects West Bloomfield to be well-staffed with trained election workers, with the goal of providing a “non-partisan experience for voters.”

Smith said that Farmington Hills is “looking really good,” in regard to having enough poll workers at precincts.

“We’re doing very well,” she said. “I think we’re pretty much scheduled in all our precincts.”

The security of elections has been questioned by many people in recent years, with some lacking confidence in the current system that is in place.

Mullison is aware of the doubts.

“Most concerns that we hear from our voters is, ‘Are you really doing anything with these ballots that are coming back to you? Are they actually (going to) get to you? Is somebody going to put a (lot of) ballots in the drop box? … There is misinformation out there, and it’s difficult and exhausting to fight it all,” Mullison said.

From Neeb’s perspective, there is an effective way to relieve the doubts some have about the security of the election process.

“I would tell anybody, if they have any questions on how an election is run, volunteer and be (an) election worker so you can learn how it works,” she said.

Smith shared a similar sentiment.

“If they have any questions, reach out to the clerk’s office about the process, or about security. Whatever questions they might have, please reach out to us and get that information from us,” she said. “When people do have questions, we’re like, ‘You (want to) work and see the whole process?’ … We’re happy to explain that to people that have questions.”

An example of a concern some have is that photo identification is not currently required to cast a vote.

Mullison discussed the process that is in place if someone does not have photo identification.

“We have an affidavit here. You would read through it, agree, (and) sign,” she said. “It just basically says, ‘I’m not in possession of my federal ID; I am who I am. I realize I’ll be breaking the law if this is not correct.’”

Given the length of this year’s ballot, Mullison is advocating patience.

“It’s a long ballot,” she said. “I don’t anticipate really long lines, but it will take a little bit longer for each individual voter to vote. So be patient (and) nice to your poll workers.”

Binder also acknowledged those who work elections.

“Election workers are our neighbors, family and friends who basically volunteer to maintain smooth elections,” she stated via email. “They are a critical and appreciated component of ensuring our ability to run elections.”

Despite having some temporary polling locations for the primary election in August, Mullison emphasized that Farmington is set to be back at its normal spots for the general election.

“We have an interactive map online, actually,” she said. “It’ll tell you exactly where you have to go to vote.”

Farmington residents who want to know where to vote can visit bit.ly/FarmingtonVotes.

Mullison encouraged residents to “make their voices heard” at the general election.

She also offered some advice.

“If they need to register, if they need an absent voter ballot, try not to wait till the last moment because that helps us and it makes sure they have time in case there’s any sort of hiccup to change anything, fix anything or make sure everything’s right so that no one gets disenfranchised,” Mullison said. “That’s our big deal.”