New early voting starts in February


IMLAY CITY — With the start of the New Year, many area clerks are turning their attention to upcoming elections and 2024 promises to be a busy one. Locally, voters in Imlay City and Imlay Township will be among those experiencing the first early voting requirement.

A new state law now requires polling locations to be open nine days prior to each scheduled election, to provide opportunity for those who may not otherwise be able to make it to the polls on election day.

Previously, you could vote in person, at the polling location the Saturday before an election or the Monday before polls opened the following day. Lawmakers have approved a new plan that now requires election workers to have voting centers open for at least eight hours a day, for nine days, before the Tuesday election.

The early voting period takes place for a minimum of nine consecutive days, ending on the Sunday before an election. Communities may decide to provide additional days of early voting, up to 29 days total, according to the Michigan Elections Bureau.

The new early voting option starts with the February 27 election. Registered voters will have nine days prior to the regular election to case their vote.

Early voting sites must be open for at least eight hours each day during the early voting period.

Early voting is offered for all statewide and federal elections. Communities may also choose to provide early voting for local elections.

Already faced with a shortage of workers, municipalities were left to scramble to find staffing for all nine days, in addition to the regular election day. Clerks were forced to find ways to entice additional help with many city, village and township boards approving raising the pay for election workers.

At the Imlay Township meeting December 20, board members followed the recommendation of Clerk Carla Jepson to raise the election workers’ pay from $11 per hour to $17 per hour. The board also approved increasing the Election Chairperson pay to $22 per hour. “These people work hard, and with the additional requirements, we need to do something to make it worth their time to help us. Election day is long enough as it is. Now, we need to find help for the nine days prior to each election too.” Jepson said they are seeking workers to help with the elections.

In an effort to pool their resources and share the need for addition help with the extra voting dates, clerks from both Imlay Township and the City of Imlay City have decided to join forces and have the early voting at one location.

For the two entities, the early voting (EV) requirements will be met by using the township hall. Each entity will have their own election equipment available for their registered voters, but the move will allow for them to share personnel.

Imlay City Clerk Dawn Sawicki-Franz said city staff will take their voting tabulation equipment and computers to the township hall in a collaborative effort to share workers. “All of the clerks in the county have been meeting with the County Clerk trying to come up with ways to handle the EV requirement,” she told the Imlay City Commission at a meeting last fall. “Carla (Jepson) and I wanted to give this a try and see if we could make it work. It’s for the early voting only, the nine days. Our regular locations will be used as normal for the other elections.”

Both jurisdictions will be having elections on Tuesday, Feb. 27, Tuesday, Aug. 6 and Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Voters in Imlay City not taking part in the early voting, will cast their ballots at City Hall at 150 N Main Street, in Imlay City. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.

Early voting (EV) for the City of Imlay City will be held for nine (9) days prior to each election.

February’s early voting will be held at Imlay Township, 682 N. Fairgrounds Road, beginning on Saturday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Imlay City Police Chief Brett Selby says the public safety millage issue is crucial for the city in 2024.

“2024 will hopefully be an amazing year for the Imlay City Police and Fire Departments,” he stated. “There are so many positive projects we have in the works in both departments that will enhance and strengthen the services that both departments provide to the citizens and visitors of our community. As costs go up and expectations are high both inside and outside the department, we look toward the potential passage of the millage on February 27, 2024, to enhance our level of police and fire services to the Imlay City community. In an effort to maintain our small town appeal while preparing for the influx of the future, the citizens will have an important decision to make in the millage proposal in February of 2024. The merging of police and fire services will allow for streamlining operations, prepare for growth and place an emphasis on training and hiring in both departments. It is important to our future that we prepare in advance for the changes and challenges we will face with growth in Imlay City and Imlay Township. It is much better to be ahead of the curve than chasing it.”

Meanwhile, in Almont, among other ballot issues throughout the year, voters will be deciding the fate of a $58.4 million bond request for the school district February 27. The school board has received State approval to ask their voters for badly needed upgrades to all district facilities, along with the request of a multi-million dollar multi-purpose facility.

Taxpayers on both sides of the issue have expressed their concerns and opinions at previous board meetings. The current board was able to shave off nearly $19.3 million from a $77.6 million dollar plan that was formulated in 2022, under a previous superintendent.

For several municipalities, the early voting requirement has also meant the need for additional specialized equipment.

As much as $15,000 per municipality has been spent to order the new voting equipment.

In most cases, the additional equipment was not part of original budgets and has meant some have had to dip into their general fund balances to cover the additional costs.