Michigan clerks prepare for most voting options ever

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Ingham County

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum. Photo courtesy of Ingham County website.

Michigan voters have more ways than ever to cast their ballots.

Last November, they passed Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment that mandates early voting be offered at all polling locations. Voting accessibility was also expanded in 2018 when Proposal 3 allowed carte blanche absentee voting. 

These new laws change how township and county clerks prepare for elections. Delta Township Clerk Mary Clark says these changes are positive because it is the clerk’s duty to ensure every voter can make it to the polls.

“It’s all good because clerks are committed to people voting. That’s a big part of our job,” Clark said. “We want people to be able to vote however they need to vote. But how that will look is still to be determined.”

Clerks and election officials across the state must create policies to implement the nine days of early voting that will be added under Proposal 2, which goes into effect next year. Clerk Sheryl Feazel of Leslie Township confirmed this will be new territory for election workers.

“February will be our first time doing this. We all have a lot to learn here,” Feazel said.

Two-thirds of voters were in favor of Proposal 3 in 2018, which added automatic voter registration and expanded mail-in registration on top of no-excuse absentee voting. Many of Delta Township’s roughly 32,000 registered voters took advantage of absentee ballots for the first time during the pandemic.

“Before Prop 3, I had about 5,500 voters on my [absentee] list,” Clark said. “After Prop 3 passed in 2018, the first big election that we had after that was 2020 with COVID. I saw my absentee numbers jumped to just under 16,000.”

Voters that wanted absentee ballots, received them in 2020. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum is confident that voters who want to vote early in 2024 will have the opportunity, also.

“Local clerks have decided they’re going to service their voters and make sure they’re open for eight hours for a minimum of nine days before the election, or they’re gonna contract with each other or contract with the county to make sure their voters are adequately taken care of,” Byrum said.

These amendments to the Michigan constitution come at a time when election results are often challenged. It is a clerk’s job to ensure that an election is held fairly, and inaccurate criticism meant to erode confidence in them is something Byrum wants leaders to call out. 

“Our elections are some of the safest and most secure elections in the nation,” Byrum said. “It is high time that people respect that and respect those dedicated individuals that dedicate their lives to running elections.”

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