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Clerks ready for upcoming elections

ESCANABA — Townships across counties are preparing for the August primary and November general elections. In addition to regular election training, absentee ballots and COVID-19 have added to the concerns of some township clerks.

Delta County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki doesn’t foresee any problems in the upcoming elections.

“Our election workers will be receiving training during the month of July,” said Przewrocki. “There will be many more absentee ballots, which will create a lot more work for the local clerks. Those ballots will be processed on election day and I do not see it delaying our results on election night.”

Townships will decide how to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus while training in July. Fairbanks Township Clerk Kathryn Denholm has ordered barriers to place between voters and workers, but hasn’t received them yet. In addition, she will have markers on the floor for social distancing.

“My attendants and equipment are good and ready to go,” said Denholm.

Przewrocki spends time in each township’s precinct as they train with tabulators in their own environment before elections.

“The county clerk comes out for about a half a day and we set up sample ballots through machines and Nancy (Przewrocki) goes through everything we need to know and do … machines, set up, closing, she’s very thorough,” said Maple Ridge Township Clerk Sue Sicotte. “Our workers are in their actual atmosphere and I think the training is more geared to each person.”

Ensign Township Clerk Mary Wilson said Ensign Township will adhere to the requirements by the state and have masks, gloves, and sanitizer on hand. Wilson said each township was emailed from the state a 2020 election order form, asking townships to choose what they would like to order. Some items to choose from include electric letter openers, folding machines, drop box for ballots, label printers, alcohol wipes, inferred thermometers, permanent markers, posts and chains to direct flow of voters in line, spacing disks and signs, various barriers including table top and free standing screens.

“If we don’t order the drop box there is an extra $500 to spend,” Wilson noted. “In the email it says the funding is coming from the Federal C.A.R.E.S. Act.”

Pat Beauchamp, Escanaba Township clerk, plans to have every one working at the tables protected with a screen barrier. She’s going to provide masks for those voters who do not arrive wearing one, and take the temperature of each voter before they walk into the building.

“As voters arrive we’ll take their temperature,” said Beauchamp. “If their temperature is high we’ll hand them an absentee ballot to fill out in their car.”

Absentee ballots are expected to be used by more Michigan voters this year. Each election clerks send absentee ballots to registered voters named on their absentee voter list. These are people who have requested the ballots. This year Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent absentee applications to every registered voter not on the permanent absentee ballot list. The move is concerning to some township clerks, including Sicotte.

“The government sent absentee applications to everyone that wasn’t on a permanent list,” said Sicotte. “Going forward there’s going to be more voting by absentee ballots because of a check box on the form that will allow it from now on … forever.”

Sicotte said it is illegal for township clerks to send out applications to voters who didn’t request one. This concerns her regarding voter fraud.

“I have heard where one person received two applications recently, one with her married name and one with her maiden name. Literally that person can vote twice. We don’t know everyone in our township,” said Sicotte. “I think there’s a high potential for fraud.”

Another scenario Sicotte spoke about concerned a lady who voted in Minnesota, but was still on Sicotte’s voter roll.

“People have pointed things out to me. Before there was better control,” she said.

Voters can now scan the absentee ballot application and email it, another potential for voter fraud in Sicotte’s eyes.

According to existing state law only local officials can send applications to those who request them, said Sicotte.

“I spoke with the Michigan Townships Association and they said you can’t do that,” Sicotte noted.

Garden Township Clerk Brenda Lester is concerned about all the absent voter ballot requests they have received. The small township with limited staff will find it difficult to keep up, noted Lester.

“Local clerks take the integrity of the election process very seriously,” said Ensign Township Clerk Wilson.

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