West Michigan clerks aim for Wednesday finish in historic vote count

To The Point

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With huge numbers of absentee votes coming in, the woman in charge of elections in Michigan’s fourth-largest county says she expects to finish counting ballots cast in Tuesday’s election by Wednesday afternoon.

Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons based her estimate on how long it took her staff to count ballots in the August primary and anticipated turnout in the presidential election.

“I can tell you from the August primary, where we had 30% turnout … we had all of our election results reported before 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday morning,” Lyons told “To The Point” during a virtual roundtable with other West Michigan clerks. “You expect roughly 70%, up to 75% turnout; that’s double. I expect to be counting ballots well into Wednesday, hopefully it’s Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve made a lot of accommodations, a lot of adjustments to offset that huge influx of absentee,” she added. “We’ve hired more election workers, purchased more equipment with our federal CARES Act funding.”

Tim Snow, clerk of the smaller Kalamazoo County, said he was hopeful his count could wrap up in the early morning hours of Wednesday — “but who knows, I guess,” he qualified.

“(This number of absentee ballots is) something we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said he was also looking at an early Wednesday finish. He added that the large absentee turnout should make in-person voting run more smoothly.

“Just simply because of a numbers issue,” he explained. “We have fewer voters coming in to the precinct. That helps our line management issues, it helps our (coronavirus mitigation) precautions as we’re trying to keep all of our voters safe. So I think those results will certainly be delivered in a timely fashion.”

The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office announced Friday that 2.6 million ballots across the state had already been cast absentee. More are expected, and it’s possible we could see more than 3 million absentee votes in all.

If you haven’t returned your absentee ballot yet, do it by taking it straight to your clerk’s office or by using a drop box.

“At this point, do not mail your ballot,” Snow said. “It’s just too late now.”

Roebuck reminded voters that they should only use drop boxes within their jurisdiction. If you use a drop box in the wrong city or township, your ballot may not end up where it needs to be — especially this close to the election.

Ballots must be back to your jurisdiction’s clerk by 8 p.m. Election Day to be counted.

“That is the deadline and there is no exceptions,” Lyons stressed.

Snow explained clerks will make note of late ballots, but they won’t be counted toward the outcome.

You can also still register to vote in person at your clerk’s office and cast your absentee ballot at the same time. Clerks will have extra office hours this weekend to accommodate that.

You can spoil your absentee ballot up until 10 a.m. Monday. If you’ve made a mistake or changed your mind, contact your clerk.

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