League of Women Voters hosts Proposal 2 forum

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Residents listen to a presentation on voting rights changes in effect after the passage of Proposal 2 during a League of Women Voters presentation Monday night.

HOUGHTON — Two years ago, Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, giving them expanded early voting options.

Taryn Mason of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country walked residents through the changes for the upcoming election season at a presentation at the Portage Lake District Library Monday night.

The proposal, which passed with more than 60% of the vote, expanded voting rights in several areas, including early voting, permanent mail-in ballot lists, absentee voting improvements, enhanced ballot tracking, drop boxes and voter identification.

Early voting will be available in all statewide and general elections, though not for local special elections. Voting sites will be open eight hours a day for at least nine straight days, starting on the second Saturday before the election.

Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties each have a designated early voting site. Baraga County’s will be at the L’Anse Township Hall, while Houghton and Keweenaw counties will have the Houghton City Center and Eagle Harbor Township Hall, respectively.

People can check the operating days and hours with their local clerk or go to michigan.gov/vote.

Early voting is done in person and fed into the tabulator. People can also bring their absentee ballot to the polling place and check in with the poll workers. They also have the options to return it in-person to their clerk, mail it or put it in a secure drop box.

Absentee voters are able to request a ballot by email, mail fax or in-person. The state now also has a Permanent Mailing List, where people can sign up to automatically receive a ballot by mail before each election. Otherwise, they would have to request one each time.

The list is best suited to those who want to vote from home, and receive their absentee ballot at the same address for each election, Mason said. If away from home during election season, they can request their ballot be sent to a different address.

“Voters who are currently receiving that application before each election will not automatically be put on that new permanent mail ballot list,” she said. “They will have to apply to join.”

Voters who move within the state can still stay on the list as long as they update their voter registration. Once they move out of the state and surrender their driver’s license, they will be removed from the list, Sloan said.

At 14 days or more before the election, voters can request the absentee ballot by mail, online or in person. From 13 days to the day before the election, they can request and vote in person at their clerk’s office. On election day, voters who register that day can request and vote the absentee ballot at the clerk’s office until 8 p.m.

Aside from military or overseas voters, absentee voters must have their ballots to clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Under Proposal 2, the state also has to cover the cost of return postage for absentee ballots and applications. Clerks will also notify them of any issues with their ballots and how to fix them.

Voters can also sign up to receive the notifications by text or emails.

Drop boxes are also available for completed absentee ballot application and voted ballots. The law requires the boxes to be secured so only authorized election personnel can remove the contents. Larger municipalities require one per 15,000 registered voters; locally, it’s one for every city and township.

To find the location of the drop box that applies, go to mi.gov/vote.

People are also allowed to drop ballots off for other people, Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly said.

The boxes are available at all times in the 40 days leading up to Election Day, where people can submit ballots until 8 p.m. Voters can only use the drop box in the municipality where they vote.

“If anything goes in there after 8 o’clock, then they’re just going to stay in there until whenever the clerk would take them out,” Kelly said. “They’ll probably put a note on it that somebody dropped them off after 8 o’clock, therefore they do not count.”

Voters are asked to show a photo ID when they arrive at the polls. If they cannot provide one, they can sign an affidavit and vote a regular ballot.

“There are many reasons a voter may be without their acceptable voter ID when they go to vote … these voters should not be deterred from exercising their fundamental right to vote,” Mason said.

People who sign affidavits falsely can be prosecuted. Kelly said the only case involving anyone locally was a case involving someone who had been on the Torch Lake Township rolls who moved to Wisconsin. Edward Malnar, 75 at the time of sentencing, received 15 days jail time in Wisconsin. He said at the time he had voted in-person in Wisconsin, but couldn’t recall if he voted in Michigan as well.

A deal had been reached in that case to only prosecute in Wisconsin, Kelly said.

“Whether it would be Attorney (General) Nessel, or if it would be locally with our prosecutor, we would have to cross that bridge,” she said. “Luckily, we have never had it happen yet.”

In response to an online questioner who said it looks like voter ID is “pretty weak and easy to cheat,” Kelly said most voters present their driver’s license.

“Most people that come to vote in person do have their Michigan ID,” she said. “So I don’t think we’re weak in Michigan. I think the election inspectors are very professional and firm about asking for that ID if they don’t have it. They’re encouraged to go get it if they left it in their car or wherever.”

Kelly also responded to a question about a group who had attended a Houghton County Board of Commissioners meeting two years ago asking about precincts with a high number of voters over 90.

Kelly had launched a cleanup effort of the voter rolls afterward. Many of the over-90 residents were still alive and voting. Most of those who were deceased had passed away in other states that had not communicated with Michigan afterward, she said. The dead had not cast ballots.

Kelly is conducting a similar effort with local clerks to clean up voter rolls for the upcoming election. She asked the people to update their information when they move, or families to notify the county about deaths of their relatives. When the clerk’s office gets reports of deaths — which can come from places like Baraga, Marquette or Ann Arbor — she removes them from the system, including voter rolls and the jury system.

“When we register to vote, it’s our responsibility to register to vote,” she said. “If we change names, it’s our responsibility to update our records. If we move it’s our responsibility to update records. So when we have bad voter rolls, and nobody is communicating with these poor city and township clerks the only way we’re finding out usually that they may be gone is if they send mail to them and the mail comes back … so it’s tough. We try all the time to work on these voter rolls.”

The next election in the state is Michigan’s presidential primary, which will be held on Feb. 27.

Kelly also stressed that the February presidential primary is an open primary. Choosing a Democratic or Republican ballot does not mean voters are registering as a member of that party, she said.

“I’ve gotten a lot of complaints coming in, where they think they’re declaring their party so they’re not willing to vote,” she said.

Adams Township School District, Laurium and Stanton Township will also have millages on ballots in those areas. To view the items and ballot language in each municipality, go to mvic.sos.state.mi.us/PublicBallot/Index.


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