Absentee ballots mailed in Ironwoood
October 2, 2020
IRONWOOD - The city of Ironwood is showing a 237% increase in absentee ballot applications from the last presidential election and the requests are still coming in, according to city clerk Karen Gullan.
The absentee ballots were received at the city clerk's office late Thursday afternoon, Sept. 24, Gullan said. The mailing started last week on Friday with the third precinct, followed by the second precinct on Monday and the first precinct on Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.
"I am already getting them back," Gullan said.
So far Gullan has received 1,029 absentee ballot applications.
For the Aug. 4, 2020, state primary there were 740 absentee ballot requests and 664 of them were returned. There is a 39% increase with the 1,029 requests so far for the general election.
There is a 237% increase from the 2016 presidential election when there was a total of 305 absentee ballot applications, Gullan said. There were 300 election ballots returned.
There were 2,332 total Ironwood voters in the 2016 presidential election, which was 49% of all eligible voters. This included 1,108 men and 1,224 women.
The difference now is primarily from COVID-19 which prompted the state Secretary of State's office to mail out absentee voter applications to all eligible voters, she said. This was also repeated by the major political parties and independent groups sending out voter registration cards and information about how to register.
"All this information is confusing people," Gullan said. "I am getting tons of phone calls."
People say they can't remember if they registered, she said. When people get multiple notifications to register, they call to check and see if they are registered or not.
It's important to read the ballot instructions, she said. Sign the ballots and envelopes where it says to sign and mail it back as early as possible.
If there is a problem matching the signatures or anything else that would spoil a ballot, the city clerk will contact the voter to come in and make the changes or complete a new ballot. The ballots are kept in a city safe until election night when poll workers process them in the voting machines.
Legislation that would allow city clerks and poll workers to process absentee ballots prior to election day is currently in the Michigan Legislature.
Absentee ballots can also be dropped off in person at the city clerk's office. There is also a municipal drop box outside the Memorial Building that is labeled for ballots, along with water and sewer bills. The box is cemented to the ground and emptied several times a day.
The city will stop mailing out absentee ballots at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30. The clerk's office will be open on Saturday, Oct. 31 for individuals to return absentee ballots in person.
All ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3. There is also legislation at the Michigan Legislature that would allow for ballots with a postal stamp dated Nov. 3 or earlier to be received and processed after election day.
"I check the ballot applications and ballots several times," Gullan said. "I check the signature on the application to make sure it matches the signature from the driver's license when I send out the ballot, and once it comes back I check the signature on the ballot with the signature on file again and make sure the ballot number goes with that and the envelope are all correct."
The Michigan Secretary of State reports that statewide there are 2.5 million absentee ballot requests so far for the Nov. 3 general election. This is a 350% increase compared to 36 days before the 2016 general election.
The Secretary of State's office reports the other Gogebic County cities and township absentee ballot requests, as of Sept. 28, are: Bessemer had 225 ballot requests and Wakefield had 266 requests. Bessemer Township had 244 requests; Erwin Township had 54; Ironwood Township had 525; Marenisco Township had 88; Wakefield Township had 71 and Watersmeet Township had 376.
"I expect the number of absentee ballots to be similar to the Aug. 4 primary, about 300 absentee voters," said James Trudgeon, clerk for the city of Bessemer. "This is about two times the last presidential election in 2016."
The city of Bessemer has a secure drop box outside of the library door at the city hall building. Trudgeon collects the ballots from the drop box several times each day. He puts them in the city safe until they are processed on election day by the election inspectors.
"I don't process the ballots," Trudgeon said. "I record when a ballot was requested, when it was sent out and when it was returned to my office."
Julie Mathiesen, the clerk for Watersmeet Township, said she mailed out absentee ballots to voters who had already submitted applications on or before Sept. 25. The ballots were mailed out on Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26.
"To date, I've mailed 368 ballots and I expect more applications to arrive in the coming weeks," Mathiesen said.
Michigan voters can find their clerk's information and request to have an absentee ballot sent to them at Michigan.gov/Vote. They can also vote early by going to their local election clerk's office and requesting an absentee ballot, filling it out, and submitting it all in one trip.
"Voting absentee is a safe and secure option, and I encourage all voters who have requested a ballot to fill it out, sign the back of the envelope, and return it as soon as possible by mailing it or hand-delivering it to their clerk's office or drop box," said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "Voters can be confident that in Michigan all correctly submitted absentee ballots will be counted."
Through Oct. 19, residents with a Michigan driver's license or state identification card can register online at Michigan.gov/Vote or by mail. Residents with or without a Michigan ID can register in person at local clerk offices through Election Day.
At the local clerk's office, residents can register and vote in one trip. After Oct. 19, to register for the November election, those without a Michigan ID, including students who have a campus address, must bring one document proving residency, including name and address, in digital or paper form. Acceptable documents include a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government check, or other government document.