GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Election workers were busy inside DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids Monday, preparing tens of thousands of absentee ballots ahead of the election and count on Tuesday.
In Grand Rapids alone, 25,000 of the 30,000 absentee ballots issued by the clerk’s office had been returned.
It takes a lot of volunteers just to prepare those ballots to be counted. On Monday, two of them had fellow election workers doing a double take. Twins Harrison and Nicholas DeChant are part of the city’s Absentee Ballot Counting Board.
“This is the third time doing this,” Harrison DeChant told News 8.
“We did this for the first time in 2020 and now we’re doing it again for the midterms,” Nicholas DeChant added.
The twins are Grand Rapids Catholic Central graduates who are now working on their post-graduate studies at University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
“There’s so many ways to get involved. We encourage anybody to get involved in any type of civic, social activism,” Harrison DeChant said.
“When citizens are active in their society, it creates a healthy society,” Nicholas DeChant agreed.
Their job Monday, along with dozens of other election workers, was making sure the more than 25,000 ballots already sent back or returned to the city of Grand Rapids by 8 p.m. Tuesday get counted. Accuracy is the top priority.
The process takes a great deal of time. In November 2020, after absentee ballots became easier to obtain and much more popular, it was Wednesday afternoon before all of them were counted in Grand Rapids, and other cities saw the same thing. So the state Legislature gave local clerks the ability to start getting the absentee ballots ready the day before the election.
“This gives us a little bit of time that we don’t have to go through that whole opening process tomorrow,” Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondrop told News 8 Monday.
The ballots have to be taken out of the outer envelopes and number on the ballot stub matched with the number on the envelope. The ballots remain in the secrecy sleeve the voter placed them in. They still can’t be counted until 7 a.m. election day, so the pre-processed ballots are locked away until then.
Hondorp’s office has also increased the number of absentee ballot tabulators this year — nine, rather than the six it had in November 2020.
Hondorp said there are still challenges. The clerk’s office must accept absentee ballots until 8 p.m. Tuesday. And equipment, like the tabulators, can break down.
“We’d like to be done on election day,” Hondorp said. “That’s always our goal. We just don’t know.”
If you have not turned in your absentee ballot, don’t mail it. You need to turn it in to your local clerk’s office or drop box.