GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As candidates continue to battle for key-state Michigan, many have started zeroing in on West Michigan.
Over the last month, President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence have all visited the state. On Monday, Ivanka Trump campaigned in Alto on behalf of her father while Pete Buttigieg made a stop in West Michigan on behalf of Biden.
As more than 1 million Michiganders have already cast their ballots, the city of Grand Rapids is preparing for one of the biggest elections in recent years. Monday evening, the city hosted a class for volunteers planning to work election polls this year.
The class marked one of 17 this week alone.
“These workers are just going to be working in a precinct, so we go over the whole process: What to expect on Election Day, who’s the cast of characters on Election Day, what role will they play,” said City Clerk Joel Hondorp.
Hondorp says there will be upward of 500 volunteers working the election in the city of Grand Rapids. About 75 of them will focus solely on counting absentee ballots. The city is expecting an influx of mail-in votes and early voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have so many more absentee counting or absentee voters, so that is going to take some pressure off the precincts because we’ll have less people at the precincts. But as I like to say, the lines might be smaller but look longer because we have to physically distance,” Hondorp said.
As politics becomes increasingly polarized, some state officials are concerned about poll watchers this year. It is legal for people to watch the democratic process from a distance, but the secretary of state is concerned about voter intimidation.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued guidance last week that guns will not be welcomed at polling locations. As a result, it’s something that will now be enforced in Grand Rapids on Nov. 3.
“One thing we have to be cognizant of is one person’s watching is another person’s intimidation. So, what is that fine line of where that crosses,” Hondorp said.
Hondorp says there won’t be an enhanced police presence at polls because that can also be intimidating to voters. He says the city will be prepared to protect voters at all costs.
“We’re going to be pleasant, we’re going to be helpful and if someone is going to try to intimidate or try to disrupt the process, we will put a stop to it immediately,” he said.
Monday marked the last day to register to vote by online or by mail. People who still need to register will have to head directly to their local clerk’s office.