Northern Michigan officials expect quick election results with extra staff to handle mail-in ballots

Aug 4, 2020

Credit Dan Wanschura

Clerks across the northwest lower Michigan region say they’re getting a lot of mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s primary.

“We have more than doubled the number of absentee ballots that have been cast for this election compared to the August 2016 election,” Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Secretary of State has pushed for voters to use absentee ballots. As of July 28, the state has given out 1,977,116 absentee ballots. For context, by July of 2016 the state had only given out 546,032.

Arcadia Township Clerk Patti Wilson says they’ve processed about 200 absentee ballots, twice as many as 2018. But she says people are still voting in-person.

“We’ve had a pretty steady flow [of in-person voting],” Wilson said. “It’s a little bit slower because we’re sterilizing after every person and social distancing.”

Wilson added that she expects election results to come in fairly quickly as, like many local election clerks, they’ve hired more staff to process the ballots.

Still, other election officials expect some people may sit this election out. Mackinac Island Clerk Danielle Leach says they’re absentee ballot numbers are pretty similar to years past.

“So I don’t know if this was just one where people were like ‘eh I’m not too worried about it,’” she said.

Leach says she expects more mail-in ballots for the November general election.

Absentee ballots can be put in drop boxes across the state. Polls are open until 8 p.m., but if you’re still in line when they close you will still be allowed to vote.