Local officials discuss upcoming primary election procedures

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 28, 2020

 Macomb Township Clerk Kristi Pozzi said drop boxes used for absent voter ballots are emptied several times a day. To protect against ballot tampering, she says absentee counting boards are in place.

Macomb Township Clerk Kristi Pozzi said drop boxes used for absent voter ballots are emptied several times a day. To protect against ballot tampering, she says absentee counting boards are in place.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Aug. 4 primary election is set to feel a little different than most, in that it is the first wide-scale election in the age of COVID-19.

“Collaboratively, we all work together under our records manager who handles operations of the absent mail-in ballots,” Macomb Township Clerk Kristi Pozzi said. “All of us support the election by registering voters to vote, issuing and receiving the ballot.”

Charles Pierce, the township’s records manager, oversees the absentee mail-in voting process, and Macomb Township Elections Manager Mickey Todd works both voting options, overseeing in-person voting, with Pozzi overseeing all operations.

“I focus a lot on the process and balancing absentee voters, making sure we balance every night,” Pozzi said. “I play a heavy role in training elections inspectors.”

Drop boxes used for absentee voter ballots are emptied several times a day.

To protect against ballot tampering, Pozzi said absentee counting boards are in place.

“Once the ballot is received, it is scanned in through the Michigan qualified voter file,” she said. “It ensures only one individual can receive a ballot.”

Once a ballot is scanned, it is filed in a precinct folder in the clerk’s office at Township Hall and is held until election morning. At that point, absentee ballots are taken to the board room where elections workers are sworn in under oath and sequestered for the day.

Each board has a minimum of six members so that no one person is handling a ballot from start to finish.

“They open the envelopes, remove the secrecy sleeve, then the sleeve gets passed to the next person who verifies the ballot that was issued matches the list we run from the state,” Pozzi said. “Someone then gives it to the tabulator. It’s a very strict process that is in place.”

COVID-19, Pozzi said, has caused the department to take a new approach to training of inspectors and to ensure safety measures are in place.

“Now we have 37 containers that have to be stocked and prepared for personal protective equipment,” Pozzi said. “That’s a huge undertaking.”

On July 15, the Macomb County Election Department and Macomb County Clerk Fred Miller took delivery of a shipment of PPE to be used by local communities in the 343 voting precincts and absent voter counting boards throughout Macomb County on the Aug. 4 election.

The shipment contained hand sanitizer, surface disinfectant, masks, gloves, and face shields, which were separated into bundles for polling locations.

Per the Secretary of State, similar materials will be made available for the Nov. 3 general election, including supplies determined based on evolving guidelines from public health authorities.

Based on the number of requests for the absent mail-in ballot, Pozzi doesn’t anticipate a large in-person turnout next week at the township’s 20 polling locations.

As of July 22, 19,500 absent voter ballots were issued by the township.

A July 22 press release from the Michigan Secretary of State shows that more than 1.8 million requested absent voter ballots have been distributed, with more than 600,000 already returned. The total number of absent voter ballots cast in the August 2016 state primary was 484,094.

At polling locations, masks will be offered to voters, should they need one. A July 17 state order indicates that wearing a mask at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election is not required, but strongly encouraged.

“It’s a completely different atmosphere,” Todd said. “Typically in the past, you could use previous historical voter information to prepare. There’s continuity in terms of the numbers of how many ballots would be mailed and how many would go to the polls.”

Individuals will be given a pen to vote that they may keep afterward, opposed to folks sharing pens throughout the day.

With COVID-19 at play, Todd said the absent voter list has greatly increased.

“It’s jumped from approximately 16,000 to a little over 30,000 right now,” he said. “With so much uncertainty, we have to plan for both polling locations and mailings. In the past, we could almost always be in the ballpark of ordering and printing of absentee ballots.”  

Absent voter ballots in Macomb Township may be returned a couple of ways — via drop boxes at Town Hall, located at 54111 Broughton Road; the township Senior Center, at 51210 Alma Drive, by 8 p.m. on election day; at the clerk’s office located within Township Hall; or by mail.

The clerk’s office will be open for extended hours to process voter registration applications and absentee voter applications July 27-30 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and July 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Folks can visit Michigan.gov/vote to check out their voting status, track the status of their ballot and more.

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