What Michigan’s May 5 Election Will Look Like Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus has changed a lot of things, including the upcoming May 5 election in Michigan, where voters are invited to vote by mail and clerks institute big changes to in-person voting.
In an effort to minimize exposure to COVID-19 by polling officers and voters, the Secretary of State has sent mail-in ballot requests to 740,000 registered voters in 33 counties who have questions about the ballot. vote on May 5. Almost 213,000 voters completed the applications and received ballots. The generally slow May 5 election is now expected to have an above average turnout.
Less than a week before the election, nearly 12 percent, or 86,355 eligible voters, voted by mail in 72 school districts or municipalities voting on May 5, mainly on school mileage or bonds.
“With a turnout in the May election of around 13% on average in recent years, these numbers indicate a significant increase in turnout,” said the office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
Residents can still register to vote by contacting their local clerk and providing proof of residency documents, such as a Michigan driver’s license or ID, by email, current utility bill, bank statement, or check from pay. They will receive a postal ballot by mail which can be returned by mail or in person. The SOS includes prepaid return envelopes with postal ballots and requests. All ballots received before 8:00 p.m. on May 5 will be counted.
For voters who want or need to vote in person, a limited number of polling stations in each location will be open on polling day. The SOS recommends that voters contact their local secretary before election day if they intend to vote in person. Each municipality has a “voter assistance machine” available to people with hearing, visual, physical or other disabilities.
Another difference: the ballots on polling day will be the same as those absent. Election officials will insert all ballots, both absent and in person, into the counting machines after the polls close at 8 p.m. Usually voters in person insert their own ballots directly into a counting machine.
“Rather than having the poll book and going to your voting booth, filling out your ballot, going to the machine and feeding it and watching it tab, these polling stations for the May elections will essentially be treated as in-person voting absentees, ”said Lisa Posthumus Lyons, Kent County Clerk. “So it will be a very different experience for the voter who goes to the polls on polling day.”
In Kent County, where there are five bond issues and two mileage renewals for school districts, Posthumus Lyons said nearly 32% of voters had received mail-in ballots and she expects “At least twice the turnout” of an average May election.
The way each secretary runs his polling station can also be different.
Wyoming Clerk Kelli VandenBerg likened his election plan to operating fast food restaurant Sonic, which offers in-car customer service. VandenBerg said voters would stay in their vehicles and election workers, wearing gloves and masks, would bring their ballots to them for the car vote.
“I think like a lot of us we see different business models,” she said. “Whether we go to a restaurant or a grocery store, any retail outlet, I think there are more and more curbside options.”
VandenBerg said voters who need same-day registration or voting assistance will be allowed to vote indoors.
Other clerks limit the number of voters at the same time.
“I leave them with one person at a time,” said Vienna Canton Clerk Cynthia Bryan. “I will publish their ballot, they will vote, they will leave. I will disinfect everything and then if there is a second person, the next person will come in.
Bryan, who conducts the in-person vote at the township office, said she was installing a wireless doorbell specifically for this election to keep voters outside while she disinfects between voters. She doesn’t expect a lot of voters in person.
The SOS sent each employee masks, disinfectant gloves, wipes and a protocol to maintain social distancing. The state also recruited and trained 1,600 election officers, “because we recognized that many election workers who served previously were seniors or were vulnerable to coronavirus,” Benson said.
The additional costs are paid for with federal grants intended to help states hold elections during the pandemic.
“We received $ 11.2 million from the federal government as part of the latest stimulus package,” Benson said. “We will use these funds to ensure that we are able to secure democracy in every election this year.”
Michigan’s primaries are scheduled for August 4. The general election will take place on November 3. How these elections will unfold is still under discussion.
Benson said voters are encouraged to wear a face mask if they plan to vote in person on May 5, just as residents are required to do at the grocery store or any public place, but they will not be turned down if they don’t.
“I think when we talk about exercising a fundamental right, we want to encourage people to be smart, respectful and safe,” she said. “At the end of the day we serve the voters, and that’s democracy and making democracy continue even in times of crisis … Maybe if someone shows up without a mask, one of the Election officers can offer one of them they might have others. “
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on March 27, temporarily suspend election laws in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The May 5 elections should be conducted as far as possible through absent ballots issued and submitted without in-person interaction,” the ordinance said. “Each jurisdiction must maintain at least one polling day location where any voter can come in person to receive and submit a ballot, including a disabled person who prevents them from voting remotely on an absent ballot. “
The state encouraged clerks to delay ballot proposals when possible.
“And what we found is that about half of the communities said we could easily move these issues around in August,” Benson said. This eliminated the need to hold most elections in Oakland, Wayne and Monroe counties and all elections in Washtenaw and Livingston counties.
Saginaw County, for example, has only about 18 voters willing to vote for a $ 40.6 million Clio School District bond issue. The school district overlaps slightly from Genesee County to Birch Run Township in Saginaw County.
Clio area schools superintendent Fletcher Spears III said the school board was considering delaying the ballot proposal until August, but determined it would be too costly.
“By moving from May to August, we would lose the construction season for next summer,” he said. “… We asked our architect and our third party to do an impact calculation … and they informed us that this would result in an increase, according to their estimates, of about $ 1 million.”
As changes due to the pandemic encourage a larger absentee vote, Benson said he’s likely going in that direction anyway. Michigan voters in 2018 passed a proposal that allows same-day registration and voting for absent without cause.
“What we’ve seen in other states and what we’ve already found in Michigan is that once voters take advantage and see how convenient and safe it can be to vote from home, they’ll want to do it again, ”Benson said. “Especially in a pandemic, we don’t want someone to feel pressured into voting in person, that they have to choose between their house and their vote.”
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus.
Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet from others and work from home, if possible.
Take hand sanitizer with you, and uses disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, counters) and when you go to places like stores.