Absentee voting is taking center stage in November’s general election. With predictions of a record number of ballots being cast by mail, the U.S. Postal Service is finding itself under siege, with funding in flux, and sorting machines and mail boxes being removed at precisely the time when it seems logical to keep them right where they are.
But this is the rather unexpected backdrop against which November’s election will take place, all this at a time when nearly two-thirds of Americans favor voting by mail, and COVID-19 has yet to be brought to heel. Mix in the fact that Michigan voters passed a ballot measure in 2018 allowing for no-reason absentee voting, and it’s easy to understand how absentee voting in Livingston County is up — A LOT.
Consider the county’s two most-recent primary elections: In 2018, 33 percent of all votes cast in Livingston County were absentee, while in 2020, the percentage of absentee ballots cast nearly doubled to 65 percent.
Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley — whose job it is to make sure votes get counted correctly — said that even though the numbers were way up, the 2020 primary absentee ballot counting was glitch-free.
“I commend our city and township clerks for the outstanding job they did with the absentee voter counting boards during this election,” she said.
The primary could be viewed as something of a dress-rehearsal for the November general election, for which Hundley is expecting another record turnout.
“Our city and township clerks will continue to assess the number of absentee ballots they are issuing,” Hundley said. “(They) will increase the number of tabulators and election inspectors that will be dedicated to absentee voter counting boards to efficiently process the absentee ballots for November,
“Like all elections, they continue to reallocate limited resources where most needed to efficiently handle each election.”
Hundley expects things to go well with the county of absentee ballots in November.
“While we don’t have a crystal ball — and I certainly do not want to jinx us — I believe we will have our results reported within normal time frames for our county,” Hundley said. “Our city and township clerks will have more equipment in use for processing absentee ballots, and at this time I expect a smooth process in November.”
With mail delivery slowdowns being reported across the country, absentee voters in Livingston County can do some things to ensure that their voice is heard and their votes are counted.
“Many of our city and township clerks work closely with their post offices to ensure their absentee ballots are delivered quickly when mailing them out,” Hundley said. “Once it goes out of local control, we can’t speak to how quick or efficient the mail service always is.”
If you’re voting absentee, here are some things you need to know:
• To request an absentee ballot, click here.
• Voters should contact their local clerk as soon as possible if they’ve requested an absentee ballot and haven’t received it. “Do not wait until the last week,” Hundley said.
(For the list of Livington 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 battle misinformation.”
• Consider working as an election inspector in November. “We can’t conduct elections without election inspectors,” Hundley said.
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.