Ballots for Nov. won’t be ready until late September

TRI-CITY AREA — Local clerks have been receiving some unique questions from voters this election year. At the August 19 Lapeer County Municipal Clerks Association Meeting, clerks from around Lapeer County discussed the calls and questions that they have been receiving.

What follows is a summary of the questions they’ve been fielding most often in advance of November’s general election.

Mail-in ballots vs. absentee ballots

A major question that Kim Diefenbach, Dryden Township Clerk has been asked often is regarding the difference between a mail-in ballot and an absentee ballot.

“Mail-in ballots and absentee ballots are similar, however, mail-in ballots are sent to every voter in that state and absentee ballots have to be requested by the voter. Michigan requires a voter to apply for an absentee ballot,” she said.

“Their application or request must have the signature of the voter. The clerk checks the applicants’ signature with the signature on file before issuing a ballot. The signature is then checked again when the ballot is returned. A clerk can reject a ballot if the signatures do not match or if the signature is missing. It’s good practice to put contact information on the application in case there is a problem.”

What is in the barcode on the absentee ballot return envelope?

Voters have raised concerns regarding the barcode that is placed on return envelopes for absentee ballots. Many voters have been wondering if their name, address, political affiliation and more are all embedded in the barcode.

Steve Delongchamp from ElectionSource was in attendance at the clerk’s meeting. ElectionSource is the voting equipment supplier that provides local precincts with their absentee ballot envelopes.

“In that intelligent barcode is just the return address to the clerk and that it is priority mail,” Delongchamp said.

He explained that the barcode is not encrypted with any personal information about the voter.

Who looks at my ballot before the election?

A common question that voters ask is regarding the safety and privacy of their absentee voter ballot. Diefenbach explained that all absentee ballots are received, left unopened and locked in the township safe until election day. She said they are never looked at prior to election day. On election day, the ballots are opened and counted.

I applied for my absentee ballot.  When will I receive it in the mail?

Many voters have been concerned because they applied quite some time ago, and have not yet received their absentee ballot.

“Absentee voter ballots will not be delivered to voters until the end of September,” Diefenbach said.

She offered some helpful ways to check on applications and ballots.

“In my office I am getting a lot of calls from voters concerning their voting status or their absentee voter applications. Voters can check their status online at any time by going to the Michigan Voter Information Center website, They can apply for an absentee ballot online at this site as well. If they don’t have internet access and have concerns or questions I encourage them to contact their local clerk,” Diefenbach said.