OWOSSO (WJRT) - (02/20/20) - Clerks in Michigan cities and townships have been vocal about the impact of a voter-approved change in elections.
Owosso City Clerk Amy Kirkland has her hands full with training sessions and an influx of absentee ballot requests.
Several other Michigan clerks have reported an increase in absentee ballot requests as well.
“People that normally would go to the polls are now able to come into our office, request an absentee ballot and they can take it with them. They can vote it here,” Kirkland said.
There are just over 10,000 registered voters in Owosso. Kirkland says numbers for absentee ballots are up for two reasons: more interest in this primary and because voters no longer have to have a reason to vote absentee.
However, with the rule change in Michigan, comes some adjustments for a small, two-person office like this one.
Just to give you a rough idea, the Owosso Clerk’s Office issued about 550 absentee ballots during the last presidential primary in 2016. With less than three weeks to go in this presidential primary, the office has already issued 609 absentee ballots. Additionally, people are making 8 to 10 absentee ballot requests per day.
“On election day we have what’s called an absent voter counting board which will count all of those absentee ballots. They’re pretty much maxed out at 1,000 ballots,” Kirkland explained. “They can probably do 1,200 without too much of a problem but anything more that they’re going to be overloaded.”
She says this means she may likely have to purchase another high speed computer and scanner to count the absentee ballots and also hire a second absent voter counting board.
Kirkland says the nature of elections are open-ended. While she may have to purchase more equipment to handle counting absentee ballots, on election day there will be a lighter turnout. That could save the office money on hiring elections staff at polling locations.
On fraud concerns, Kirkland says they’ve had training in keeping things secure. There’s a chain of custody that must be followed.
When ballots are returned they’re placed into a vault until election day when they can be opened.
Absentee ballots ccan be turned in to city hall until 8 p.m. on election day.
Click here for more information on absentee voting.