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Local clerks ready for historic, unprecedented Election Day
Over 5,600 Frankenmuth city and township residents have an obligation to vote this Tuesday, November 3, for the Presidential General Election.
Frankenmuth City Clerk Phil Kerns, Frankenmuth Township Clerk Luci Valone and Blumfield Township Clerk Lisa Roethlisberger are in major final preparation mode as they will have over 40 percent absentee ballot totals to process this year.
For the city, Kerns has 4,091 registered voters, with 1,949 absentee ballots (AV’s) issued and as of press time, over 1,490 have been returned – over 36 percent absentee.
“These numbers are the highest we have ever had for an election. We are receiving some sporadic comments about slow-moving mail and continue to caution voters to return their AV ballots by person this week to make sure their vote is received and counted,” Kerns said.
Valone has a population of 1,563 with 663 ballots issued and 464 returned – which is 42 percent of the township choosing to vote by absentee ballot.
By comparison, the 2016 general election drew 311 township absentee ballots issued. In total, nearly 86 percent of the voters turned out for that presidential year. In 2018, when the marijuana proposal was on the ballot, along with the state governor, Valone issued 360 absentee ballots with an 87 percent turnout.
“So, we already doubled our absentee voter participation from 2016. It would be great if we could top 90-percent voter turnout . . . it is within our reach,” Valone stated.
In terms of frequently asked questions, it is OK to use a black Sharpie to fill in the ballots and it is OK if there is no secrecy sleeve when voters return the ballot.
Statewide, Valone said the best news clerks received recently is that the 8pm November 3 deadline stands for turning in ballots.
“The Court of Claims had ruled clerks must accept ballots for 14 days after the election. The problem was that delayed the canvass. We can’t swear in anyone until the canvass is complete, and the two-week extension made accomplishing that impossible by the November 20 deadline to swear in many city council and township board members,” Valone said.
Blumfield has 1,582 registered voters, up 50 from the August primary, Roethlisberger said. A total of 556 AV ballots were issued, with 406 returned as of press time. To date, 35 percent of Blumfield voters have requested an AV ballot.
“We have had a lot of voter questions regarding the mis-communication of early voting. I never had an absentee ballot voter spoil a ballot . . . I am up to five now, with many calling and questioning a ripped envelope of marker bleed,” Roethlisberger said.
For comparison, Blumfield in the 2016 election had 1,370 registered voters, with 182 AV ballots issued and 180 returned. Blumfield will have office hours 8am until 4pm Saturday, October 31, for AV voting.
The Frankenmuth City & Township Government Center, for residents of both municipalities, will be open from 8am until 4pm Saturday, October 31, to issue and receive AV ballots. Additionally, inside the east vestibule, outside the east entrance and drive up drop boxes (labeled for utility bills) can be used for ballot return and are conveniently located for their return, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Absentee ballots will also be issued on Monday, November 2, during regular hours and up to 4pm; however, voters must cast their ballots at the City & Government Center and may not take them home. Frankenmuth City voters may contact Phil Kerns at 652-3430, extension 111; Frankenmuth Township voter should contact Luci Valone at 652-2011 and Blumfield Township voters should contact Lisa Roethlisberger at 652-2778 for their availability next Monday.
To be counted, AV ballots must be received by the respective clerks by 8pm Tuesday, November 3.
"Based on the number of AVs requested, we anticipate approximately 30-40 percent of in-person voters coming to the polls due to the continued fears over the COVID-19 pandemic and voters, since 2018, having the right to cast an absentee ballot for no reason,” Kerns said.
The West Genesee Street entrance to polling place buildings will be blocked off on Monday and through the election because a tent will be erected in the event additional waiting area is required and social distancing must be implemented because of the close proximity of our precincts and the inability to properly social distance between voters inside the building.
“Standing on the stairs inside the building is hazardous and the hallway space is limited. Please bundle up, just in case the weather is cold and you will need to stand or sit outside for a few minutes,” Kerns advises.
Per the Weather Channel forecast, Election Day weather is forecasted for temperatures in the low 50s and just 10-percent chance of precipitation.
The city’s two precincts will be located in the lower level Nickless Community Room and be divided a little different than normal, but similar to the August primary with one-way traffic only. Special accommodations will be made for voters with disabilities. Voters will be greeted by election officials either outside (underneath the tent) or inside (located behind plastic shields made by the city’s DPW crew, mounted on tables in the precincts.
“If possible, we ask that voters who are able to do so wear a mask not only for their protection in this enclosed space, but also to be mindful of our workers that will most likely face hundreds of voters on Election Day. Our voters have always been considerate and regardless of your personal beliefs on whether masks work or not, please understand that our workers – many of whom are your neighbors – will have to face in-person voters throughout the day and then return home to their families. Our election workers are great people and understand what public service and the importance of honest and open elections means to our country and its citizens,” Kerns said.
Finally, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a ban of open carry of a firearm at voting locations.