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THURSDAY, Aug. 8 — Local voters are taking increasing advantage of absentee balloting and eschewing the walk to neighborhood polling locations.
A whopping 76 percent of voters chose to vote absentee in the city of Lansing, while the absentee rate in Meridian Township hit 58 percent and the rate in Eaton County was 54 percent.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said the number of absentee voters was actually higher than the total number of voters in a similar primary in August 2015, when turnout was only 8 percent.
Swope credited a mailer he sent out to all voters asking them if they wanted to receive a ballot in the mail. “We’ve been working for years for people who were eligible to get on the permanent [absentee voter] list.”
Swope said the change is dramatically shifting the work toward the clerk’s office and away from polling locations. The city hired 227 polling workers to help with just 26 percent of the vote, while the 28 people in his office counted the lion’s share of the votes.
Turnout in Eaton and Ingham counties was abysmal for the election staged in the dog days of summer while many are off enjoying the weather. Only 14 percent of registered voters in Lansing and Meridian Township bothered to vote, as did only 9 percent of voters in the Potterville School District on a school renewal levy there.
Michigan voters passed Proposal 3 with a two-thirds majority last fall, allowing same-day registration, automatically registering people when they get a driver’s license or state identification card, reinstating straight-ticket voting and allowing mail-in, or absentee voting, for any reason.
Previously, voters usually needed to be elderly or disabled or declare they would be out of the county on election day to receive an absentee ballot at home.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said she may also send out a countywide mailer allowing voters to select an absentee ballot.
“Since the passage of Proposal 3, we are certainly seeing an increase in absentee voting,” Byrum said.
Eaton County elections specialist Kim Morris concurred.
“The majority of clerks are trying to make it easier,” Morris said.