Michigan clerks are now accepting applications for absentee ballots ahead of the November election.
But there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the world about voting. State election officials expecting absentee voting numbers to be high this year for a lot of reasons — one being that our laws have gotten more friendly towards absentee voting, but also because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s also uncertainty surrounding absentee voting due to new policies by the United States Postal Service and ongoing concerns about USPS’s ability to get mailed in ballots to clerks’ offices in time.
As part of the weekly series MichMash, WDET’s Jake Neher and MLive’s Cheyna Roth talk with voter rights advocate, Aghogho Edevbie, the Michigan State Director for All Voting is Local, about how voters can make sure their ballots are counted.
Edevbie offers three big pieces of advice to voters to make sure their votes are counted.
1. Make a voting plan
When it comes to voting, the number one thing people need to do is make a plan, says Edevbie.
“There are a number of options that voters have this election cycle to make their voices heard,” he tells Neher and Roth on MichMash. ”We have a system that should allow people to vote meaningfully either by mail or in person. So make a plan.”
2. If you’re voting by mail, do it quickly!
Voters can now request their absentee ballot for the November election, and Edevbie says you’ll want to mail your ballot as quickly and efficiently as possible. Starting on Sept. 24, voters can also go to their clerk’s office and vote early by absentee ballot in person. You can also always vote in person on Election Day.
But whichever way you choose, you have to make sure that your ballot is in by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
“That is critical,” says Edevbie. “There’s no leeway on that. So voters should get their absentee ballots early” and return them quickly.
3. Consider using a drop box — if you can
Edevbie says many cities and towns across Michigan have drop boxes available to return your absentee ballot, and that voters should take advantage of that option if they can.
“They can find their dropbox is by contacting the clerk and if they don’t know who the clerk is, they can go to michigan.gov/vote to find out who their clerk is,” he says.
But Edevbie says local election officials should do more to make sure this option is available to all Michigan voters.
“Right now there are about 700 drop boxes across the state of Michigan, and that’s a pretty good number compared to other states,” he says. ”But there are some communities in Michigan that need to up their game on that subject.”
He says the standard is that there should be at least one drop box for every 15,000 to 20,000 voters, a standard that is set by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
“And that just ensures that there’s a drop box and every section of our communities and that people can use that to return their balance in a speedy and safe and efficient way and ensure that their voices are heard,” he says.
Also in this episode
Poll workers needed
Poll workers will continue to play a critical role in this upcoming election, but there’s a concern that there won’t be enough poll workers to keep up with the scale of voters this election is likely to bring, in part because poll workers tend to be the population most at risk for COVID-19, the elderly.
“Poll workers are the bread and butter on the election process,” Edevbie says. “We really have to have them, not only to make sure that polling locations on Election Day are functioning well, but also that we have enough people to count the absentee ballots in an efficient and steady manner.”
Possible policy changes
There needs to be some changes to our state laws when it comes to voting, he says.
Right now, bills in the state House would allow for ballots postmarked by the day of an election to be counted. Edevbie says he would also like to see legislation that allows clerk’s to open up absentee ballot envelopes up to 24 hours ahead of time, and verify that the ballot is correct, then set it aside while still in the secrecy sleeve.
“It’s a very small change but it gives clerks a lot more time to get things done,” he says.