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Tuesday, August 4,2009

ABSENTEE VOTING UP THIS YEAR

by Neal McNamara

This year’s primary election is on track to break a voting record set in the last mayoral primary in 2005 — that is, absentee voting.

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope says that his office has issued (meaning that voters have requested the forms be delivered to them) 4,376 absentee ballots this year. Swope said that 2,700 — 62 percent — have been returned so far, but that’s already 100 more than in 2005 when a total of 2,600 voted absentee.

Swope called the absentee voting block “heavily senior,” meaning that most of these voters are 60 and over. Swope said that since he’s been elected, which was in 2005, he has made efforts to reach the absentee voting block. He has done mailings to anyone 60 and over not already on the absentee voting list to inform them of the opportunity. He sends the same mailings to citizens when they turn 60.


The fact that only 2,700 ballots have been returned, Swope said, tells him that a lot of people are unsure about their choice in the upcoming primary. He didn’t think that it was any one candidate going out and passing out absentee ballot applications that was causing this election cycle’s increase.

Mayoral candidate Carol Wood says she thinks that the increase can be attributed to a residual interest in voting from usually disenfranchised voters after last year’s presidential election.

At the same time, she’s been passing out absentee ballot applications on the campaign trail. Her campaign has purchased voting data from East Lansing-based Practical Political Consulting and targets absentee voters by delivering them an applications.

“We make a concerted effort to call absentee voters, we bring ballot (applications) to events, have them online and if they need one, we make sure we get it to them immediately,” Wood said.


Swope is predicting somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 will physically get out and vote in the primary. In the 2005 primary, 13,500 voted out of a total of 83,500 registered voters in the city.


“It’s typical of a city election to get a low turnout,” Swope said. “It’s ironic: you have more control in local elections, they impact you more, but people are more interested in national elections.”

The Clerk’s Office will have extended hours Saturday at its 2500 S. Washington Ave. location for absentee voters to drop off their ballots.



Correction: An earlier version of this story did not properly differentiate absentee ballots from absentee ballot applications. We apologize for the error.

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