Lansing prepares to mail absentee ballots
Between the ease of voting from home and the risks of spending a long time in a crowded, enclosed space during a pandemic, Lansing is preparing for a record-setting number of absentee ballots in the August primary.
Election workers will be spending three days at the city's election unit, sending out absentee ballots and processing absentee ballot applications.
City Clerk Chris Swope says this is the most ballots ever sent out for a primary election.,
"We have about 16,000 ballots ready to be sent out, and we're expecting more applications to come in, so there's a really big wave going out on Thursday," he said.
Even though there will be more ballots sent out than usual, Swope says voting by mail is safer and more secure than it used to be.
"Voters actually have the ability to go online and see if we received it and recorded it, and this year we've actually added a way they can track it through the mail," Swope said.
With the coronavirus pandemic, Swope says it's important for voters to vote from home, and sooner rather than later.
"It's important for us to get the ballot into the voters' hands, and make sure they have time to make their selections and get them back to us," said Swope. "If they're going to rely on the mail, we recommend they mail it a week before the election."
However, getting those ballots back on time isn't the only thing the city is worried about.
"The biggest issue is going to be counting the ballots in a timely way," said Swope. "We aren't allowed to open a single ballot until 7 a.m. on election day, so we only get 13 hours until the polls close. We're going to have a really tough time having results by the 11 o'clock news."
But Swope says they'd rather be overwhelmed by more votes.
"Every voter has a constitutional right to vote by absentee ballot, so this is a great way to inform people of that right, and a lot of people are taking advantage of it."
Starting Thursday, June 25, voters will be able to come into the South Washington office or Lansing City Hall to cast their vote in person.
Lansing voters can drop off an absentee ballot in person at the "South Washington elections unit" weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. It's open until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.