Absentee ballots should be arriving soon; what every voter needs to know

The Nov. 3 election is going to be a huge exercise in democracy, and Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley — whose job it is to make sure all votes get counted correctly — is expecting a record number of votes cast, most of them by mail. In the two most-recent primary elections, the percentage of votes cast absentee nearly doubled, from 33 percent in 2018 to 65 percent in August 2020.

So far, everything is running on schedule, Hundley said. The ballots were printed and delivered on time, and they should be hitting mailboxes soon.

The huge increase in number of absentee ballots in the August primary didn’t faze Livingston County’s election system: Hundley said the primary was glitch-free. If the primary was dress-rehearsal for the general, Livingston County appears to be in good shape, and Hundley expects things will go well: “Our city and township clerks will have more equipment in use for processing absentee ballots.”

Even if everything runs perfectly, though, a recent ruling by a Michigan judge — if it stands — means we might not know the results right away. The judge ruled that ballots postmarked as late as the day before Election Day must be counted, even if they arrive after the polls close. Under the ruling, late-arriving ballots could still be counted until the election results must be certified, which is 14 days after the election, or Nov. 17.

The ruling — which applies only to the Nov. 3 , 2020, election because of the pandemic and delays in mail delivery — is a big change from the current system, which only counts ballots that arrive before the polls close on Election Day; under the ruling, ballots that arrive after election day must still be counted if they meet the postmark requirement.

In other election-related news, Hundley said that for the first time since she’s been in office, local clerks are reporting that they have plenty of election inspectors for the Nov. 3 election.

“This is fantastic news given the COVID situation and the struggle we have faced in the past securing enough election inspectors,” Hundley said. “It’s nice to have some positive news related to elections.”

With the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and mail delivery slowdowns, absentee voters in Livingston County can help ensure that their voice is heard and their votes are counted.

Here is an informative graphic from michigan.gov:If you’re voting absentee, here are some things you need to know:

• To request an absentee ballot, click here. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 30, 2020.

• Voters should contact their local clerk as soon as possible if they’ve requested an absentee ballot and haven’t received it.

(For the list of Livingston County clerks, click here.)

• Allow at least two weeks to return a ballot by mail.

• Voters should track their ballot and ensure it was returned to their local clerk, and verify it is shown as checked back in. To do so, click here.

• Return your ballot as soon as possible if you’re mailing it in. “All of our city and township clerks have drop boxes available, and ballots can be returned in person to local clerks,” Hundley said.

(We’ve listed Livington County’s drop box locations below. Please note that you can only drop your ballot off at the drop box in the municipality in which you are registered to vote.)

In general, Hundley offers the following suggestions for all voters:

• Check your voter registration and get registered now if you’re not. “While same-day voter registration is allowed, it is much better to prepare now and don’t be standing at the local clerk’s counter on election day,” Hundley said.

• “We want voters to cast their ballot how they are most comfortable,” Hundley said. “Vote absentee if you prefer, but our polls will be open if you prefer to vote in person on election day.

• Contact the Livingston County Clerk’s office at (517) 546-0500, or your local clerk’s office NOW if you have any election questions. “Please don’t wait until the last minute,” Hundley said. “We want voters to have accurate information, and we spend so much time battling misinformation.”

If you are voting absentee and want to drop off your ballot yourself, here are the Livingston County locations listed on the michigan.gov site:

If you are planning to vote in person on Nov. 3, 2020, click here to find out where you need to go.


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Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. These days, she runs The Livingston Post, and is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.

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