ESCANABA - Politicians have been campaigning for months, but Tuesday's general election will likely be over in the blink of an eye when the results are finally tabulated. What really goes into preparing for an election? Quite a bit, according to a local county clerk.
Delta County Clerk Nancy Kolich said tomorrow's general election is one officials have been working toward for approximately one year.
"We started a year ago on this election actually, if you include the presidential primary, because we had to start preparing the ballot for the February election," she said. The early stages of election preparation mainly involve candidates meeting deadlines by filing paperwork with the clerk's office.
After February's presidential primary, the clerk's office began receiving filings from candidates in April for the August primary, as the deadline to register was in the middle of May. Once that was complete, officials began programming the August primary ballot. The month of July served as the filing deadline for non-party candidates for the general election, and the filing deadline for non-partisan races, including local school boards, Bay College Board of Trustees, and the village of Garden, were right after the August primary.
Then it's all about programming the November election ballots, as clerks must be ready to send ballots to overseas military personnel by the end of September.
"There's been a real push to make sure that the military receives their ballots at least 45 days prior to the election, so they had to receive their ballots on Sept. 22 to allow them enough time to get those back," said Kolich.
Before printing the ballots, the names of each candidate must be checked.
"We send out proof ballots to every single candidate on the ballot, and this year there were 190 plus candidates," said Kolich. "Each of those candidates have to be sent a proof ballot and get their approval."
After this, public accuracy testing is done with all the county's cities and townships, to make sure the program tabulates ballots correctly and that an Automark voting machine, used for those who may be visually impaired, is also working properly. This is all completed two weeks prior to the election in order to work out any issues.
Then there's an election training held at Escanaba City Hall for all election inspectors, who are required to be certified before people exercise their right to vote.
"We've had a very high rate of absentee ballot requests this year," noted Kolich. "I think part of that is because there is so much on the ballot, people want to be able to look it over ... and really take their time."
According to Kolich, there have been several changes to Michigan's election law this year, one of which was to have a receiving board for election verification.
"Each precinct will be required to have a receiving board that verifies all of the sealing and the documentation," she said. "At the end of the night, once the election inspectors have sealed everything, then there is a receiving board that looks everything over to make sure it's done properly."
She said the county has worked to ensure election information is available to voters, working with the state to get ballot information on their website, but also posting each precinct's ballot on the county's website, www.deltacountymi.org. Election officials have also been active in registering people to vote prior to the registration deadline.
Kolich said one of the main issues the county had with the November ballot this year was with the six state ballot proposals, since they didn't receive the wording for them until early September and almost had to fit them on a second ballot. Fortunately, the state allowed them to use a smaller font to fit them on one ballot. She noted that in addition to the major races and state proposals, some precincts will also see an even longer ballot including five school district millage proposals and one township millage proposal.
Kolich said it's always nice to see the accuracy of election equipment and the good job the city and township clerks and election inspectors have done. This was the case during the September recount for the 108th District state representative Democratic nomination. She also credits staff in the clerk's office for doing a great job in working with township and city clerks and making sure everything is ready to go on election day.
"Everybody's goal from the Secretary of State down through the election workers is keeping the integrity of the voting process and making sure that every vote counts," said Kolich.
Kolich reminds voters to bring their photo IDs with them to the polls Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the election results will be posted on the county's website at www.deltacountymi.org.