Record turnout predicted for Aug. 4 primary, clerk predicts

Swope says absentee voting driving the increase


FRIDAY, July 24 — Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope is expecting a record turnout for the Aug. 4 primary election.

But don’t expect mobs at the polling places.

Swope said he has mailed a record 22,000 absentee ballots. That’s about three times more than were mailed in 2018, when there was a record primary turnout of over 21,000 voters in Lansing. Swope said he expects about 25,000 people to vote this year, most through the mail.

“The coronavirus has really encouraged” voting from home, Swope said.

Proposal 3, passed overwhelmingly by voters statewide in 2018, allows voters to register through Election Day. It also gives voters the right to vote absentee without stating a resason — so-called “no excuse” voting.

It’s too late to register by mail — that ended 15 days before the election, which is just 10 days off. But voters can still register in person in the clerk’s office in City Hall or at the satellite office in the old Washington Avenue armory.

Swope said the U.S. Post Office advises mailing absentee ballots a week ahead of the Aug. 4 election — which means by Tuesday — to guarantee they’ll arrive in time.

You can also leave ballots in secure boxes outside City Hall and the old armory 24 hours a day.

Voters who want to vote in person will be able to do so. Swope said all 45 precincts will be open as usual, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Well, perhaps not quite as usual, thanks to the pandemic.

If the weather is good, voters will be kept in line outside while they are waiting, Swope said.

Voters will be offered disposable masks if they don’t bring their own.

“We cannot require masks,” Swope said. “They have a constitutional right to vote,” masked or not.

Inside precincts, lines will move one way so voters will not have to come in close contact with each other. Voters will be offered hand sanitizer and pens, which they will be asked to dispose of as they exit. Workers will wear masks or face shields, and shields will also be set up to protect workers as they verify voters. Workers will be screened for COVID-19 through questions and checking their temperatures. Voting booths will be farther apart than usual.

Swope said he still needs workers, who are paid at least $12 an hour, depending on their duties.

Regardless of how many workers he has, though, Swope said he expects it will be after midnight before he can release results, compared to three or four hours earlier in previous years.

That’s because of the unwillingness of the Legislature to change the state provision prohibiting counting absentee ballots before the polls open at 7 a.m.

Swope is investing in a second high-speed tabulator — at a cost of $80,000 – that will arrive after the primary.

Even with it, though, “The General is going to be a very late night,” he predicted.


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