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Absentee ballots gaining popularity

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Clerk’s Office Administrative Assistant Kate Straley sorts through a pile of absentee ballots on Friday that have been returned to City Hall. Voting absentee is becoming popular because of its convenience.

ALPENA — It seems like everywhere you look there is a group or organization urging people to get out and vote and to make their voice heard, but it may be a different measure that is increasing the number of people who have cast ballots in recent elections: the absentee ballot.

An absentee ballot allows voters to request a ballot before election day and then return it to their local municipal office before the polls close. In Northeast Michigan, the practice is being used more prominently and local clerks anticipate the number of people voting absentee will only continue to climb.

Through the end of the business day on Thursday, the City of Alpena has issued 584 ballots, of which 320 have already been returned. The balance have until the polls close on Election Day Nov. 6 to return them.

Clerk/Treasurer Anna Soik said voters are more aware of how voting absentee works and how simple it is and are flocking to it because of its convenience. She said the current state of politics and importance of the election has probably caused more people to vote, overall.

“There has been a lot of talk about it and it seems like within the communities and on TV there is a push to get people to vote,” Soik said. “Absentee ballots also allow people more time to research candidates and proposals, because when you go to vote at the polls, you don’t really have a lot of time.”

The staff in the clerk’s office for Alpena Township have also been busy sending and receiving absentee ballots. Clerk Michele Palevich, who is working her first election, said 847 ballots have been issued and 418 have already been returned.

Palevich said the number of requests surprised her, somewhat, as did how many have come back so soon. She anticipates that will continue until the deadline.

“It has been a steady flow,” she said. “I believe they are popular because we have an aging community and it is easy, but we are also seeing young people who are leaving town for school or have to work. There are also a lot of people who are leaving town for the winter and voting before they leave.”

Rogers City has a smaller population than Alpena or Alpena Township, but the percentage of absentee ballots being returned is about the same. The clerk’s office has issued 252 ballots and received 142 back, with 17 days left until the election.

Rogers City Clerk Terri Koss said there has been more of a demand for absentee ballots this election. She said she believes there are several reasons why, but suspects the main driver is because of a hotly contested race for probate judge in Presque Isle County.

“It could be because of the local race that has been getting a lot of press and people are talking about,” Koss said. “There are also people leaving and headed for a warmer climate and that factors in, too.”

Hillman Township Clerk Pam Achatz has been in office for more than 30 years and worked many elections. She said that, as the popularity of absentee voting began to grow, she made a dedicated list of people who vote that way and sends them applications to submit.

She said that practice makes it easier for voters, especially seniors.

“That’s 200 people who don’t have to come over to the office and it is probably a lot more easy for them,” Achatz said. “I have sent the ballots to them in Florida, Texas and New Mexico and other places.”

Achatz said for the midterms there have been 225 ballots issued, but she does not have a recent count as to how many have been returned so far.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.

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