MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Around 1.9 million Michigan voters are expected to cast their votes this election cycle via absentee voting.
The Michigan Department of State says right now around 1.12 million absentee ballots have been returned to their respective clerks' offices ahead of this year's gubernatorial election. In 2018, the state says there were about 1.09 million absentee ballots requested. About a week ahead of that year's election, around 703,000 ballots had been returned to clerks' offices.
"I’m looking for a lot of clarity on a lot of things. I know there’s a lot of proposals on the ballot this year and I think everyone needs to get out and vote on those," said Situnyiwe Walker as she dropped off her absentee ballot in Southfield Tuesday afternoon.
Walker says she started voting absentee during the 2020 election due to COVID-19. She says this year's election is particularly important to her because of proposal three, which deals with reproductive rights.
"I have an infant but I’ve had two miscarriages and it’s very, very important for me to vote this time because of the things that people don’t think about for women's reproductive health because they just think about a baby and not all the things that can go wrong like what happened to me," said Walker.
Darlene Alston also dropped off her absentee ballot Tuesday.
"As a whole, we’re going to get the country that we vote for and the real thing is are you willing to live in that country? Do you want your grandchildren to live in that country," said Alston.
Alston says she has been voting absentee for several years because the process gives her more time to research the candidates and make an informed decision. She says as a former postal worker, she's confident absentee voting is safe and secure.
"I don’t have time to stand in the line and vote so I wanted to get my ballot in," said Oten Wyatt Jr. after casting his vote Tuesday.
Wyatt says he plans to volunteer at a polling location on Election Day which he's done in several previous elections.
The Michigan Department of State says about 40 jurisdictions throughout the state will be pre-processing absentee ballots including the city of Detroit, the city of Novi, and Madison Heights.
Madison Heights Clerk Cheryl Rottmann says her office will begin preprocessing ballots on the Sunday before Election Day.
"So each absentee ballot that gets returned gets scanned into the system and then once the system pulls up the voter/ their signature, which appears here, it's compared to the envelope," said Rottmann of the process that happens as soon as the ballot is received by local clerks.
Rottmann says then the ballot is ready to be pre-processed. She says it helps to streamline the tabulation process when there are thousands of absentee votes like there have been in recent years.
"Since the 2018 proposal, we’ve seen a complete reversal of how people vote. It used to be in Madison Heights that 70% of the voters were in-person voting and 30% were absentee and for the last several elections it’s been the exact opposite," said Rottmann.
Rottmann says once the clerk's office does an initial ballot verification and cross-checks ballot numbers and voter numbers, the number of ballots in their possession will be printed out on a list. From there, the list and ballots will head to a bipartisan preprocessing board which is made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. The preprocessing board then double-checks the work/count of the clerk's offices twice more. Rottmann says then ballots are organized to be tabulated on Election Day starting at 7 a.m.
"It’s important because that process is time-consuming and we want to make sure that we are doing everything properly and accurately and so these are just all double checks for what the clerk's office has already done," said Rottmann.
Rottmann says her office has only received about 50% of the ballots back that were sent out. She says voters should return ballots as soon as possible to ensure they're counted.