Northern Michigan Clerks Not Allowed to Process Absentee Ballots Early
“There are still some people that fall through the gaps in this law, but I think it is a step in the right direction.”
Governor Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation into law Tuesday that gives clerks more time to process the record number of absentee ballots they’re seeing.
“We’re getting 10 or 15 new ones every day,” said Gaylord City Clerk Kim Awrey.
Like many across the state, she is seeing a record number of absentee ballots.
“We have seen more than double than the 2016 election, and that was a record turnout for us, so we are seeing more absentee ballots and they’re rolling in,” Awrey said.
To help clerks process these ballots, the governor signed legislation that allows clerks to get started 10 hours before Election Day. But only for jurisdictions with a population over 25,000, leaving out much of Northern Michigan including Gaylord.
“It was a little frustrating,” Awrey said. “We thought that we would be able to see some relief and do some things on an earlier basis, a day or two ahead of time, so we’re not so overwhelmed on Election Day.”
“This law doesn’t really do much for our small communities in Northern Michigan,” said municipal attorney Matt Cross. “There are still some people that fall through the gaps in this law, but I think it is a step in the right direction.”
It also requires clerks to contact voters about discrepancies in their signature.
“I think that’s a clear indication of the legislature prioritizing election security, they want to make sure the voter says who they say they are but also give them some leeway,” Cross said.
With this surge in absentee ballots, Cross says expect some delays in results, but that just means the process is working.
“People should take some solace in knowing it’s taking a little bit longer because clerks, the election staff, are being careful to make sure these ballots are legitimate, signatures match,” Cross said.
For Awrey, she’s making sure staff is ready for Election Day and expects little delay.
“We might have to process ballots after polls actually close if we’re not done with absentee ballots,” Awrey said.