MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Ingham County is implementing a new opt-in counting board for absentee voters. The counting board is a group of poll workers who process and tally absentee ballots on election day. This year, municipalities within Ingham County can choose to be a part of the counting board.
“An absentee voter counting board or AVCB was created as a means to deal with a larger increasing number of absentee voter ballots that needs to be processed,” says Brett Dreyfus, Meridian Township Clerk.
The main tasks are opening envelopes, straightening ballots and removing the tabs, placing them in piles and running them through a tabulator, and duplicating ballots that have errors.
The county has two high speed industrial envelope openers that operate at a speed of 2000 envelopes per hour as well as a $35,000 scanner to help expedite the process.
Board members are stationed in a separate room for the entire process because they are looking at live ballots. This process can take up to 12 hours depending on how many absentee ballots are received. There were 16,000 absentee ballots mailed out this year.
Dreyfus predicts that there will be an “astronomical” number of people who vote absent this election because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says, “The agreement requires that we provide one election worker for every 800 AV ballots that we’ve mailed out."
The Meridian Township Clerk’s Office began issuing absentee ballots on September 24th. Voters can take the ballot home and mail it in, or they can complete it at the Clerk's Office when they receive it. Absentee ballots will be mailed out on September 24 and can take up to a week to get the ballot.
Absentee counting boards have been used in Michigan since 2016. Before that, absentee ballots would have to be delivered from the clerk’s office to individual precincts so that they could process them. AVCB eliminated this step which made processing absentee ballots much easier.
However, since the counting board is county wide this year, absentee ballots received after 4:00 pm the day before and all day election day will have to be delivered to the precincts. Clerk Dreyfus says, “We’re going to count on at least two deliveries, maybe three during the course of the day, to every single precinct.”
Dreyfus attributed President Trump as the reason for the increase in people interested in working the polls on election day. “I think there has been concerns because the president has made a lot of inflammatory comments about the election process and about AV ballots. People decided they wanted to get more involved in elections and more people wanted to sign up to be election inspectors.”
Anyone who is interested in becoming an election worker or working on the AVCB can apply on the Meridian Township website. Workers are paid $11 an hour and for a two hour training. Training will begin in October. There are safety precautions in place, including 6-feet social distancing, wearing masks and wiping down stations at the polls.
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