What West Michigan polls looked like amid pandemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even during the coronavirus pandemic, voters still went to the polls to make their voices heard during the Aug. 4 primary election.

Poll workers were wearing masks and hand sanitizer was near the entrance — just a few of the changes that officials implemented to keep people safe.

“I came here first to try to avoid the people,” said voter Katheren Palmer.

Right at 7 a.m., as polls opened, Palmer went to LaGrave Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids to exercise her rights.

“Getting out and voting and making sure that those changes happen are extremely important right now, more than they ever have been,” Palmer said.

Palmer said even though there are risks, as long as safety measures are in place, it’s worth it.

“There’s a lot of social injustice in the world right now, an excessive amount of social injustice, and there’s a lot of things happening in the country and things need to change,” she said.

Voter Tommy Brooks had the same mindset.

“I got to, you know, try to do my right for the citizens of Grand Rapids, Michigan and come out and cast my vote,” Brooks said.

Polling locations were not as crowded as usual, as many people voted absentee due to the pandemic. Polling precincts in Grand Rapids were averaging seven people per hour Tuesday afternoon.

Some people went in person for convenience.

“We live very nearby, so it’s very easy to walk over,” said Cindy Molnar, a Kent County voter.

Others were concerned voting by mail isn’t secure, though experts say it is.

“Voting by mail, it’s fraud. There is too many question marks,” Steve Vogt said.

But the majority of in-person voters News 8 spoke to requested an absentee ballot but ran out of time, lost it or forgot if they turned it in.

“I’m coming really to check. Just in case I didn’t, then I can vote here,” said Kaye Karen Dean.

If you’re unsure if you’ve turned in an absentee ballot, a computer system shows if one was requested and if it was returned. If one wasn’t returned, voters are required to sign an affidavit and the absentee ballot is spoiled before you can proceed with voting in person.

Whether in person or by mail, voters encouraged everyone to make their voices heard.

“It may change things and changing things is the way of life,” Brooks said.

“Just get out and vote, just do it,” Palmer said.

If you don’t want to vote in person on Tuesday, you have until 8 p.m. to return your absentee ballot at your local clerk’s office drop box.

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