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We hope you enjoy this abbreviated version of the

Frankenmuth News

Serving Frankenmuth Since 1906

Vol. 115 No. 03 - In our 115th year!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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COVID-19 pandemic means polling place safety for clerks

  Six months ago, the State of Michigan held a March election just a week before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state.

  Six months later, clerks statewide are preparing to conduct an election with coronavirus regulations in place and a record number of absentee ballots.

  Frankenmuth City Clerk Phil Kerns, Frankenmuth Township Clerk Luci Valone and Blumfield Township Clerk Lisa Roethlisberger and their precinct workers will greet voters at the polls from 7am until 8pm Tuesday, August 4, for the primary election.

  What a difference COVID-19 makes as more and more registered voters have chosen to become part of the permanent absentee ballot list in their jurisdictions. A new state law passed in 2018 now allows for no excuse absentee voting.

  Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said absentee ballot returns have already topped the 2016 total. Election workers are needed to assist with the mailed ballot increase and polling places.

  As of press time, over 1.8 million absentee ballots have been requested and nearly 700,000 have already been returned and ready for processing. The total number of absentee voter ballots cast in the August 2016 state primary was just 484,094.

  “The volume of absentee ballot requests and returns we’re seeing underscores the near universal enthusiasm Michigan voters share for casting their ballot in a way that is safe, secure and convenient,” Benson said. “I am encouraged that this enthusiasm remains unaffected by attempts to spread misinformation about the integrity and security of voting by mail. The numbers make it clear that voters trust our system and are eager to participate in it.”

  The 2016 primary was held before voters in 2018 amended the state constitution to allow all Michigan voters to cast ballots from home. The first statewide election after that amendment passed was the March 10, 2020 presidential primary, which occurred before there were any known cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. In that primary, one million absent-voter ballots were issued, barely half of the 1.8 million already issued for August 4.

  For Frankenmuth City, Kerns has issued 1,384 absentee voter ballots and received 798 ballots thus far. There are 3,977 registered voters in the city.

  “This number is the highest we have probably ever had for an August Primary Election and is the most during my 23 years as serving as city clerk. We are receiving some comments about slow-moving U.S. Mail and caution voters to return their AV ballots by person this week to make sure their vote is received and counted,” Kerns stated.

  Valone said Frankenmuth Township has 1,515 registered voters. She has issued 417 absentee ballots and nearly 200 have been returned as of press time.

  Valone also urges voters holding an absentee ballot to bring them in person to the Frankenmuth City-Township Government Center, 240 West Genesee Street.

  “I would request anyone with an absentee ballot to return it to the Government Center and put it in the drop box in the foyer or walk it to the post office counter. Any ballots dropped in the outside mailbox will go to Detroit first and may not be delivered by August 4,” Valone pointed out.

  City voters will cast their ballots in the Government Center (City Hall) while township residents will use the Public Safety Building.

  Kerns and Valone will conduct hours from 8am until 4pm this Saturday, August 1 (together at the Government Center) to issue and receive AV ballots. Absentee ballots will also be issued on Monday, August 3, during regular business hours up to 4pm. However, voters must cast their ballots on the spot and not take them home.

  While the township voters have one precinct, the city’s two precincts will be located in the lower level of the Nickless Community Room and will be divided a little different than normal with one-way traffic only (with special accommodations made for voters with disabilities).

  “Voters will be greeted by election officials located behind plastic shields mounted on tables. If possible, we ask that voters who are able to do so wear a mask not only for their protection in this enclosed space, but also to be mindful of our workers that will most likely face hundreds of voters on election day,” Kerns said. “Our voters have always been considerate and regardless of your personal beliefs on whether masks are worn or not, please understand that our workers (many who are your neighbors) will have to face in person voters throughout the day and then go home to their families. Our election workers are great people and understand what public service and the importance of honest and open elections means to our country and its citizens.”

  Valone has similar protocols in place for the township.

  “Voters will be asked to use the hand sanitizer at the door upon entering the building. The State of Michigan Executive Order 2020-153 removes the requirement for masks on Election Day, but encourages their use. We will not mandate mask usage but leave that to the voters’ choice. Since we have to visually verify a voter’s identity using their driver’s license, voters will have to remove their mask during the process,” Valone said.

  Voters will also be issued one pen to be used throughout the process and they can take home the pens. Poll inspectors will be at their usual stations but there will be sneeze guards between voters and inspectors. Voting stations will be six feet apart.

  “Once their vote has been cast, voters will exit on the Franklin Street side of the building,” Valone added.

  Valone is not expecting a large turnout, since this is a primary, unless the millages and sheriff’s face draw voters to the polls.

  Blumfield Township has around 2,000 residents, with 1,541 registered voters. Roethlisberger has issued 385 absentee ballots as of press time and 205 have been returned. In contrast, only 61 absentee ballots were handed out in 2016.

  “In-person voting will still be held at the township hall on M-15. We will have separate entry and exit doors and maintain six-foot distancing. All voters will be required to sanitize their hands prior to entering the polling location,” Roethlisberger said. "All election workers will be wearing a face shield and/or mask and gloves, as well as having plastic between them and the voter. Surfaces will be disinfected periodically. The Frankenmuth Credit Union generously donated pens so that voters will be issue a pen to use throughout the process and take home with them.”

  Blumfield has established an Absentee Ballot Counting Board. This board is responsible for processing all AV ballots in a separate location from the polling place.

 For more information, contact Kerns at 652-3430, extension 111; Valone at 652-2011 or Roethlisberger at 868-9512. For state information, visit Michigan.Gov/Vote.

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