Michigan sets new record for absentee voting

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One week out from the Nov. 3, Michigan has already set a new record for absentee ballots.

The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday morning that 2.1 million ballots had already been cast absentee. That number represents ballots that have passed preliminary security checks verifying signatures and been accepted by clerks’ offices.

The previous record for absentee ballots was 1.6 million, set in August. With 3.1 million absentee ballots requested in Michigan this year, when all is said and done, the state could see more than double the 1.3 million absentee ballots cast in November 2016.

Data from the state shows the city of Grand Rapids has issued nearly 60,000 ballots and gotten 39,677 back. On Tuesday morning, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons said that in all, 146,937 ballots had been returned in the county. Absentee ballot participation, she said, has doubled over November 2016.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reminded absentee voters who haven’t sent their ballots back yet to do so only by dropping them off at their local clerk’s office or at a drop box in their jurisdiction, saying it’s too close to Election Day to ensure they will arrive in time if mailed.

“At this point in the election with seven days out, I do not encourage putting your absentee ballot in the mail,” Posthumus Lyons, the Kent County clerk, agreed in a virtual press conference Tuesday morning.

Ballots must be in the clerk’s office by 8 p.m. Election Day to be counted. The latest you can spoil an absentee ballot is 10 a.m. Monday.

You can still register to vote in person at your local clerk’s office and cast an absentee ballot right then and there.

“Register as soon as you possibly can to prevent potentially having to wait in line to get registered,” Posthumus Lyons advised.

Despite the large number of voters casting absentee ballots, she still expects long lines at the polls on Nov. 3.

“Because we’re adhering to social distancing guidelines and things like that, lines will probably look much longer than they really are,” she explained.

With double the votes from the primary election, she expects counting to stretch into Wednesday. Counting absentee ballots is a somewhat laborious process that requires some security checks, plus the simple act of opening envelopes and smoothing ballots to be run through machines.

“We’re going to do everything we can to report those results as quickly as possible, but we’re not going to sacrifice security and accuracy for speed,” Posthumus Lyons said, reiterating a promise she has made before.

“Our clerks, my office, we are prepared for this election,” she said. “We’re ready to go.”

Michigan voters will see long ballots this time: In addition to the hotly contested presidential election, they are choosing a U.S. senator, U.S. representatives, state House members, state Supreme Court justices and local judges, university board members, county prosecutors and sheriffs, and deciding on two statewide ballot questions, plus any local proposals.