The November election will be like no other. This is the first presidential election since Michigan voters (in November 2018) gave themselves the constitutional right to vote absentee for any reason. This presidential election will be the first where citizens have the constitutional right to register to vote up to and including Election Day. Public health concerns surrounding COVID-19 also have an impact.
There is anxiety and voter confusion. As city clerk, I aim to protect the integrity of elections and ensure voters have the necessary information to participate — whether at the polls on Election Day or voting absentee.
This year, my team is preparing for increased numbers of absentee ballots and ensuring proper protocols to keep voters and election workers safe on Election Day.
As of Sept. 30 in Traverse City, we issued 236 percent more absentee ballots than for the November 2016 election. That is driven by concerns about the pandemic and the convenience created by Proposal 3.
Voters who wish to vote absentee should request a ballot and return it ASAP. Absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Nov. 3.Mail your completed ballot at least two weeks before the election. After Oct. 19, bring it to the secure ballot drop-off box at the Government Center, 400 Boardman Ave., or into my office on the first floor.
Thirty-four states, including Michigan, allow registered voters to vote by mail because it includes features that prevent fraud like signature verification, a paper trail allowing post-election auditing and reduces threat of election hacking by foreign governments or anyone else. Ballot tracking (Michigan.gov/vote) allows voters to know the status at any time.
You can vote in person on Election Day, if preferred. I joined the Michigan Vote Safe Coalition, a bipartisan group of personal and public health experts and election officials, to enable precautions to make voting in person safe and feasible. We will have personal protection equipment and resources to keep every polling location safe and clean on Election Day. Many people — your friends and neighbors — have stepped forward to work the polls.
Register to vote online (Michigan.gov/vote) or by mail 15 days or more before the election; afterward, register at your local clerk’s office up to and including Election Day. To vote absentee, complete an application online (Michigan.gov/vote) or contact your local clerk’s office for an application (which can be emailed for you to sign, snap a photo and email it back). Request an absentee ballot by the Friday before the election at 4 p.m.; after that, visit your local clerk’s office before 4 p.m. Nov. 2.Make sure your absentee ballot is received by your local clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day and it will be counted.
Voters can contact me or a member of my knowledgeable team. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for election-related business, including registering to vote and/or obtaining an absentee ballot.
About the author: Benjamin Marentette is the city clerk for the City of Traverse City. He serves as chief operating officer for city government, which includes overseeing elections. In 2019, he was appointed to the Michigan Election Modernization Team and in 2017, he was selected as City Clerk of the Year by colleagues around the state.