CADILLAC — Absentee voters might notice a difference in their request forms this year.
Unlike previous years, the voters no longer need to list a reason for being an absentee voter. They can also register to vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day and still vote, according to the Michigan Secretary of State Office.
There will be elections in 49 counties on Aug. 6 and the polls will be open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
However, there will be no elections in Missaukee, Osceola or Wexford counties this August, according to the office. In Lake County Webber Township has a fire millage.
In the spirit of Election Day and with the changes passed by Proposal 3 in November, the Cadillac News talked to local clerks to get a head start on voting advice and information for Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Absentee Ballot Forms
Wexford County Clerk Alaina Nyman said the biggest change that happened after November’s election had to do with absentee ballot requests.
Because of the passage of the Promote the Vote state constitutional amendment last November, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan may request an absent voter ballot without providing a reason, according to the Secretary of State office.
With the proposal passed, absentee voters can vote that way for no reason. They don’t need to list a reason and they can then become permanent absentee voters, Nyman said.
This could benefit someone in the military who is not stationed in Michigan but is registered to vote there. This way they won’t have to fill out an application every time.
It also might benefit someone who is busy and knows their schedule won’t change so they can also always be an absentee voter, she said.
Missaukee County Clerk Jessica Nielsen said in an email that as far as absentee voting is concerned, any registered voter that is eligible to vote in an upcoming election can request and vote an absentee ballot for any reason.
“It must be requested in writing, and submitted to their local clerk for processing who will then in turn issue the absent ballot,‘ she said.
Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm said she thinks the absentee votes could be higher in future elections because of the convenience of not needing a reason to vote that way anymore. She doesn’t think it will be a huge increase, maybe around 10 or 15%.
“But I think a few people might take advantage of it who didn’t before,‘ she said.
People also may request an absent voter ballot at the same time as registering to vote.
If someone registers the Monday before an election and requests an absent voter ballot at the same time, they must vote it at the clerk's office.
If they register on Election Day, they may either request an absent voter ballot and vote it at the clerk's office or instead of requesting an absent voter ballot may go to the precinct and vote, according to the Secretary of State office.
As for registration, people can register to vote at the polls if they are not currently registered, Nyman said.
She said there’s no time frame like the 30-day waiting period that was in place before and people can register five minutes before they vote.
She thinks this will be beneficial for younger voters. If someone turns 18 the week before the election they can now be eligible to vote.
Nielsen said that eligible citizens may become registered to vote in a variety of ways at any time through Election Day.
Individuals who register to vote within the 14-day period immediately preceding an election must appear in person at their city or township clerk’s office and provide proof of residency.
Individuals using any other method must register to vote at least 15 days before Election Day and are not required to provide proof of residency.
Other methods of registration include an application obtained at one of the following locations:
• Local Secretary of State branch office
• Local county, city, or township clerk's office
• Offices of several state agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Community Health and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
• Military recruitment centers
• Voter registration drives
• Online at www.Michigan.gov/sos
“Michigan law states that the same address must be used for voter registration and driver's license purposes,‘ Nielsen said. “That means, if the residence address you provide on the application differs from the address shown on a driver's license or personal identification card issued by the state of Michigan, the Secretary of State will automatically change your driver's license or personal ID card address to match the residence address entered on this form.‘
If a change is made, the Secretary of State will mail you an address update sticker for your driver's license or personal ID card, she said.
If you are living outside the U.S., you may send a Federal Postcard Application to register to vote. This application is distributed through U.S. embassies and military bases. It also serves as a way to request an absentee ballot, Nielsen said.
Bluhm said precinct workers must direct people who want to register to vote to the clerk or deputy clerk to do so. After they do that the precinct workers can proceed with the ballot.
She said someone might register the same day because “people just forget‘ to do so beforehand.
The person is working and all of a sudden the news reminds them it’s election day. They had forgotten to register before but wish they could still vote.
“That’s just human nature,‘ she said. “That’s just how we work.‘
Some people also move here from another state and don’t know about Michigan laws for voting, she said.
Bluhm said there will be some who do same-day registration but doesn’t think it will be in large numbers.
What the difference means for clerks, voters
Nyman said clerks probably won’t see a big impact until next year’s presidential election, as presidential elections tend to have higher voter turnout rates.
She said in Wexford County in May there was not a change in the influx of absentee voters or in same-day registration.
“I think definitely with the bigger election we might get it,‘ she said.
When it comes to clerk workload, she thinks there could be an increase in mailing in votes but that could mean a decrease in people coming physically to the polls, “so it would end up balancing out,‘ she said.
The big concern posed with this new way of registering is that people might try to vote multiple times. However, with the voting system they have in place it will flag if someone has already voted, Nyman said.
The system updates so if someone voted in Haring Township or another township and then went to Cadillac, it would show they already voted. As long as the system is used and the information is submitted properly no one will be able to vote twice and “there should be no issue,‘ she said.
She thinks the big thing is it will help a lot of people and they are hoping to see a big increase in the voting numbers because of it.
Bluhm said all the clerks are still trying to figure this stuff out. In Osceola County in November, they will have a big election for the transportation center.
“It’s going to be a learning process for all of us,‘ she said.
Nielsen said the best way for voters to get information on voting and upcoming elections is by visiting the Secretary of State voter information center, which can be accessed online.
Voters can check to see if they are registered, where they are registered, information on their polling location, local clerk and even access candidate and/or proposal information on their ballot in an upcoming election.
They can also get information by contacting their local clerk or the county clerk’s office.
“I would encourage voters to visit this site or contact their local or county clerk if they are not sure if or where they are registered to vote, or have any other questions,‘ she said. “The passing of Proposal 3 has given Michigan residents (and) has presented local and county clerks with a lot of changes to prepare for, but has also provided the easiest access to voting Michigan residents have ever had.‘