Bay, Genesee county clerks frustrated by thousands wasted or unused ballots

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FLINT (WJRT) (11/09/2017) - Two county clerks from Mid-Michigan are frustrated over the number of ballots that are wasted every year because of low voter turnout.

The clerks of Genesee and Bay counties held a news conference Thursday to talk about how much taxpayer money is wasted on printing ballots.

Because of low voter turnout Tuesday, more than 70,000 ballots will have to be shredded. Only 17.43 percent of people eligible to vote Tuesday came to the polls in Genesee County, while that figure was only 12.81 percent in Bay County.

To illustrate their point, Genesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason and Bay County Clerk Cynthia Luczak shredded old ballots -- hundreds of them.

Various laws require that there be more than enough ballots available for registered voters. Local clerks don't want to run out, so they make an educated guess on what voter turnout will be and order enough ballots to meet that and still have a surplus on hand.

Depending on the size, ballots can cost up to 25 cents each. So in Genesee County alone, about $18,000 worth of ballots will have to be shredded and taken to landfills.

Gleason and Luczak both want absentee voting made easier.

Many communities allow voters 60-years-old and older to be able to vote absentee. The clerks would like to see Michigan switch to systems that other states use that allows absentee voting with no reason needed.

And both of the clerks are concerned with the percentage of people who are 18 to 24 who don't vote. They believe more of an effort should be made to encourage young adults to vote and to make it easier.

"They turn 18 and there's no reason for them to go down to the DMV, to go down to the Secretary of State to register to vote until they get their next driver's license at 20," Luczak said. "They're slipping through the cracks at 18 if they don't make that due diligent attempt to go and register to vote at age 18."

The two county clerks say it will be up to Michigan lawmakers to make the changes to absentee voting laws and to encourage young people to vote. However, they're not hopeful anything will be done soon.

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