EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Last year, Michigan voters approved the introduction of in-person early voting. Before the measure goes into effect statewide, East Grand Rapids was one of the communities that tested it out during this month’s election.
In 2022, Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, causing big changes in the state’s election laws. One of those changes requires election officials to offer at least nine days of early voting, starting with the 2024 presidential primary.
“We got $30 million of funding from the state for early voting and we anticipate that will significantly help us cover these new costs and then started working with clerks to build out the technology,” said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State.
East Grand Rapids was one of 12 jurisdictions to pilot early voting during this November’s election.
“I wanted to get a heads-up on what was coming for 2024,” East Grand Rapids City Clerk Lori Parmenter said.
Participation was low with only 213 East Grand Rapids residents voting early out of 3,226 total voters.
“This was the pilot, so not as many people knew about it and it wasn’t required for this one,” Parmenter said.
She said it was still a good opportunity for election inspectors and voters to get familiar with the process.
“They got to see how everything was working and everything went really well. The system worked great, everything was secure,” Parmenter said. “They get to put their ballot directly through the tabulator just like they do on Election Day.”
Kalamazoo County didn’t participate in the pilot but 18 out of 19 of its cities or townships recently entered a collaborative early voting agreement. County Clerk Meredith Place believes it will be beneficial for voters.
“They’ll be receiving one message about early voting from the county. Voters will have the option to vote at four different vote centers,” Place said.
As clerks prepare for at least nine days of early voting, more election workers are wanted. Place says in Kalamazoo County they’ll have 324 inspector shifts that need to be covered.
“So, we need everyone, we need all hands on deck,” Place said.
To increase early voting participation for next year’s elections, Parmenter says education will play a big part.
“I think the biggest thing is just getting the word out that it is an option for all three elections next year,” Parmenter said.
In total, more than 4,600 Michigan voters cast a ballot early.