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Clerks weigh in on local absentee voting impact

ESCANABA — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, applications to vote by mail were sent to registered voters across Michigan recently. Government clerks in the area spoke about the impact an increase in absentee voting could have on their workload and budget.

Delta County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki said the applications were distributed last week to all eligible voters who weren’t already signed up to automatically get an absentee ballot application.

“Those absentee ballots were sent out by the Secretary of State’s office, and they were sent to anybody who’s not on a permanent list,” she said.

According to Przewrocki, her office has not been directly involved with this process. However, it has started to affect the county clerk’s office in some ways.

“The issue that we’ve been receiving phone calls on is people are receiving multiple applications … for people who haven’t lived at their address for several years,” Przewrocki said.

The office has been letting people know how to deal with unneeded applications. Local residents who receive ballot applications for people who no longer live at their address are encouraged to send these applications back to the Secretary of State.

“One of the things that they can do is, if it comes addressed to someone who no longer lives there, they should write ‘return to sender – no longer lives at this address’ on the envelope,” Przewrocki said.

Another organization is planning to distribute absentee ballot applications next week, as well.

“The Center for Voter Information is also going to be sending out … absentee voter applications to (800,000) Michigan residents,” Przewrocki said.

In many cases, Przewrocki said she expects these applications to go to people who have already received applications.

“I’m sure we’re going to get phone calls on those, also,” she said.

Those who have already filled out absentee ballot applications can throw redundant applications away.

While absentee voting was already set to rise in popularity this year, Przewrocki said COVID-19 and the distribution of ballot applications are expected to make it an even more common option than it would have been otherwise.

“There’s definitely going to be (an) increase because of the permanent list that the township and city clerks have, and there are going to be a lot of additions to that list because of this mailing,” she said.

This may have an effect on clerk’s offices in the area.

“It’s going to greatly increase the workload of the city and township clerks, and then it’s also going to increase the cost to the townships for the postage,” Przewrocki said.

She also noted these offices would not have been able to budget for this situation. While she did not know how this issue would be addressed, she said city and township clerks may be able to request federal funding.

Escanaba City Clerk Phil DeMay said he does not expect increased absentee voting to be a major challenge for his office.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an enormous impact, financially,” he said.

So far, DeMay has seen about 300 absentee ballot applications submitted. He expects a few more to arrive in the coming months.

While he believes 2020’s general election will serve as the “true test” of absentee voting in Michigan, DeMay was confident in his employees’ ability to deal with any problems this could cause.

“I believe we’ll be ready for it. We have a great staff that can handle it,” he said.

In addition to distribution efforts by the Secretary of State and Center for Voter Information, Przewrocki said absentee ballot applications are available online or at county, city and township clerk’s offices.

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