October 24, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- The election is still over a week away, but as of Wednesday, nearly 800 voters here had already cast their ballots.
Approximately 780 absentee ballots had been sent or turned in to the township clerk's office by Oct. 24 and as of that date, a total of 1,615 had been given out by mail or in person.
"They are coming in fast," said Elections Coordinator Karen McArthur. "That is all we are doing all day right now."
In 2008, the township clerk's office had 1,775 absentee voter ballots returned for the November election. McArthur expects to receive 2,000 or more this election.
In order to obtain an absentee ballot, voters must have a valid reason for not going to the polls on election day, Nov. 6, including being 60 years of age or older; physically unable to attend the polls without assistance of another; an appointed precinct worker in a precinct other than the precinct in which the voter resides; absent from the community in which the voter is registered for the entire time the polls are open on election day; unable to attend the polls due to tenets of the voter's religion; or unable to attend the polls due to confinement to jail while awaiting arraignment or trial.
College students and military members are frequent absentee voters and McArthur is pleased to have sent out 30 overseas ballots.
A common question by voters applying for absentee ballots is whether their vote will be counted. McArthur reassures voters that the clerk's office has a special team on election day and all the absentee voter ballots go to this sequestered team, who checks to make sure the ballot matches up with the envelope it is in. Another team then feeds these ballots through the same machine that is used at the polling places so the ballots are secret. The election workers keep count of how many ballots are put in the machine and how many the machine says were put in to make sure the numbers match.
"It's all a very safe process," said McArthur. "Absentee ballots are counted on election day, not before and not after. Before election day, they are kept in a locked room in the clerk's office."
Absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Nov. 6, at which time the polls also close. If they are obtained in the clerk's office on election day, they must also be completed then and can not leave the building.
"Please don't do that," said McArthur. "Make sure they are in the mail by the Friday before election day (Nov. 2) to ensure delivery by election day."
She notes that postmarks do not matter. The clerk must have the ballot completed and in hand on Nov. 6 before the polls close.
McArthur expects a large turnout at the polls on election day and recommends voters read up on the numerous proposals on the ballot at the League of Women Voters Michigan website, www.lwvmi.org, a non-partisan site.
"Be prepared to spend some time at the polls," she said. "It's going to take time to vote that ballot. We are going to set up all booths we have and tables with makeshift cardboard dividers so we can accommodate more voters to vote in privacy. It will be crowded, I think all day."
The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., Nov. 6. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be able to vote. McArthur anticipates the shortest wait times will be between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
"We had 7,963 voters in the last presidential election, way above normal," she said. "That was about 80 percent registered voter turnout. "
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville