GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If the rate of returned absentee ballots is any indication, voter turnout will be high next month.

State election officials say of the 1.7 million absentee ballots sent out statewide, more than 400,000 have been returned. Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp’s office issued about 27,000 ballots, about 9,000 of which have been returned.

“So that’s about 32% of the ballots that have been returned,” Hondorp said.

His office is using a $111,000 grant to add security and efficiency to the election, like for upgrades to the laptop computers used to check identification and other information before a vote is cast.

“Those computers needed to be upgraded with new security fixes, and since we don’t run them on the internet, it takes a little bit to update any security,” Hondorp explained.

The funds will also pay for more human help, especially when it comes to absentee ballots.

“As we’re securing absentee ballots that come in, we’ve hired additional temporary staff to help us so we can secure that,” Hondorp said.

The grant is for physical security of election sites, along with technology and network upgrades on systems made after October 2021 that support election administration. The funds originated with the Federal Help America Vote Act and are funneled through the State Elections Bureau.

The money is also being used to improve efficiency. The November 2020 count for Grand Rapids wasn’t completed until the late afternoon the day after the election.

“From lessons learned from 2020, we’re leasing high-speed scanners and adjudication equipment so hopefully were not 72 hours into Election Day, so that we can get done earlier,” Hondorp said.

While a large number of votes will be cast absentee, Hondorp said a trend from the August primary tells him voters are returning in person.

“We saw 2,000 more voters in August vote in the precincts rather than vote absentee,” Hondorp said. “So maybe the trend is, following the pandemic, that voters are going back to the polling places.”