Local municipal clerks are encouraging registered voters who qualify to apply for absentee ballots to avoid potentially long waiting periods at the polls during the Nov. 6 general election.
“There will be long lines and people taking longer to vote,” Whitehall City Clerk Karen Helmlinger said. “I encourage people age 60 and older to get absentee ballots.”
By using an absentee ballot, Helmlinger said the voter can take time going through the lengthy ballot which is two printed pages, front and back.
Qualified voters have until 4 p.m. Monday (Nov. 5) to apply for and receive an absentee ballot at their local clerk’s office. They can take the ballot home and complete it, or fill it out at the clerk’s office. The absentee ballot must be returned to the clerk’s office or polling place by the close of the polls - 8 p.m. - on election day.
To give voters additional time to obtain an absentee ballot, the clerks will have office hours until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3.
In addition to voters age 60 and older, those who qualify for absentee ballots are: those who will be absent from the community in which they vote the day of the election, those who are physically unable to attend the polls without assistance, those who cannot attend because of their religion, those who are serving as a precinct inspector in a precinct other than the one in which they reside, and those who are in jail on election day awaiting arraignment or trial.
Karolyn Rillema, Fruitland Township clerk, said on Friday morning her office has been busy with absentee ballots. They have, so far, sent out 857 ballots and have received 436 completed ballots. That is a similar number to the 2008 presidential election, she said.
Rillema said there will probably be long waits at the polls located in the Fruitland Township Hall because of the long ballot and the number of voters expected to cast ballots during the presidential election. She said the township has about 5,200 registered voters, and in the last presidential election 85 percent of them cast ballots.
Rillema said they will set up as many voting booths as possible at the polls, but she anticipates it will be “slow going.”
Rillema said the township has an absentee ballot counting board to speed up the ballot possessing on election day.
Helmlinger said her office has sent out 310 absentee ballots, a high number for the city. “We usually have about 400.”
The Whitehall clerk said nearly 140 absentee ballots have been returned.
Montague City Clerk Laurie Robillard said her office averages sending out 350 absentee ballots during an election, and she anticipates it will be close to the number used in the 2008 presidential election.
Robillard said when voters pick up an absentee ballot she recommends they take it home so they can take time in completing it.
Not only will voters face a ballot with federal, state, county and local (township or village) partisan and non-partisan offices, they will also be voting on six statewide ballot proposals, and one or more local proposals.
New this year, school board elections will be held in November, moving from the more traditional May dates because of a change in the election law.