Troy City Clerk Aileen Dickson wants the residents of Troy to know something: If they are worried about the prospect of voting in person on Nov. 3, they shouldn’t be.
“Our precincts and election workers have all the cleaning supplies they need; they all have masks, the face shields, and gloves,” said Dickson. “The people going into the precinct can vote; there are social distancing cues and crowd-control measures in place … we also have masks for anyone (voters) who may need one. Workers will be wiping down the polls and the check in table. We have everything that I can think of to make it a good environment for people to vote.”
Dickson said that these measures, which were also used during the August Primaries, were a smashing success. She said she received compliments from in-person voters who were impressed that the precincts smelled like bleach.
Absentee Ballot requests and concerns about security
During a normal election year, the city of Troy issues around 15,000 absentee ballots, but with the COVD-19 pandemic still spreading like wildfire, Dickson has received 31,382 requests for absentee ballots from city residents. This is over double what the normal request for absentee ballots are during a typical election season.
Michigan is a state that allows for people to receive an absentee ballot without a required reason. The ability of people to vote safely without the risk of contracting COVID-19 is reassuring for many older voters and those with underlying health conditions.
President Trump expressed serious concerns about the security of mail-in voting during the election season. Dickson, however, explained that this simply isn’t the case.
“In Troy, our ballots are received by either drop box or through the mail, so only clerk’s office employees would be able to handle those ballots,” said Dickson. “Then they (the ballots), come in and get date-stamped so that we can actually verify that they were received in our office during that day. ”
After this step, the ballots are sorted by precinct and checked to ensure that the signature of the voter is on the ballot. Once the ballots are sorted, they are entered into a “qualified voter file” database that contains all of the eligible voters within the city of Troy. Each absentee ballot also has a unique serial number which is recorded and checked for accuracy upon retrieval.
If the signature on the ballot, which is compared to the signature on a person’s driver’s license, does not match, or if other issues arrive, the voter is contacted by phone or email to resolve the issue. Ballots that pass this phase are sorted again and kept in a secure room until the results can be tabulated by election workers on election day.
For more information regarding the absentee ballot counting process, you can hear Aileen Dickson explain the process in detail here.
The intense emotion associated with the election is driving people on both sides of the political spectrum to vote either in person or absentee in record numbers. In addition, grassroots efforts across the nation by local and state organizations have tried to help citizens learn how to register to vote.
“Just in the past three or four weeks, the Biden campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party made sort of a collaborative decision that it is time to get people knocking on doors … we aren’t talking to people who are necessarily voting for Joe Biden and Donald Trump; we are talking to people who are trying to decide whether or not to vote,” said Vaughn Derderian, chairperson of the Oakland County Democratic Party.
Derderian said the focus of this recent initiative was to try and reach communities that are sometimes overlooked by traditional political campaigns as well as let these “forgotten” men and women know that their voice is as important as anyone else’s.
Derderian, along with Dickson, believe the hyper-partisan election climate will cause people to flock to the polls in a much bigger number than in 2016.
“We typically would see about a 75% turnout or so for a presidential election, and we are kind of thinking it’s going to be closer to 85%,” said Dickson. “I think that is what election officials across the state are anticipating, a 10% increase.”
Counting votes throughout Oakland County
With the mass influx of absentee ballots throughout Oakland County, Oakland County City Clerk Lisa Brown has her hands full.
“I have contracted with 16 of our municipalities and townships to tabulate their absentee ballots,” said Brown.
Brown mentioned that Southfield, Pontiac and Royal Oak are among the larger municipalities in the county.
Brown said her election staff is well-equipped to process the ballots within a timely manner.
“We doubled how many people we hired from August to November to process our absentee ballots,” said Brown.