KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Hoping to encourage early voter registration and avoid an Election Day logjam, the Kalamazoo city clerk is opening an office on Western Michigan University’s campus.

Kalamazoo city commissioners on Monday signed off on a plan that will create a temporary satellite clerk’s office at the WMU Bernhard Center and add official absentee ballot drop boxes. There will also be expanded evening and weekend hours.

Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling said grants are covering the $56,000 cost and a state program will pay for the return postage on absentee ballots.

His staff has begun to send out absentee ballots and is seeing high demand.

“At this time, we have requests in for 16,000 absentee ballots,” Borling said. 

In 2018, Michigan voters approved a ballot proposal that allows any registered voter to request an absentee ballot without a reason. It also allows voters to register at their clerk’s office on Election Day, which led to long lines at the Kalamazoo clerk’s downtown office on the day of the March presidential primary.

Many in line were college students.

“We’re hoping that by having a satellite location there, that’s on campus, for the few weeks before the election will give them (the) opportunity to take care of that business,” Borling said.

Denise Keele, the co-chair of the nonpartisan WMU group We Vote, says the changes will improve voter participation among college students.

“We would like to see every eligible voter at Western Michigan University register to vote and voting, so that’s a big goal given their numbers currently are maybe 50%,” Keele said.

The We Vote group does not advocate for any candidates.

“We are strictly about getting folks registered, educating them on the process, the how to vote,” Keele said.

The satellite clerk’s office can be used by all eligible voters who are city residents. The hours of operation and an opening date are in the process of being finalized.

For more information on voting in your area or to find the status of your absentee ballot request, visit Michigan.gov/vote.