Clerks begin process of pre-processing absentee ballots for first time in Michigan

A new law allows city clerks to pre-process absentee ballots on the day before the election, getting the ballots ready to be counted come Tuesday
Posted at 5:38 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 17:39:58-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Clerks around West Michigan have begun the process of pre-processing absentee ballots on the eve of Election Day for the first time in our state's history.

About 52,000 absentee ballots are expected to be pre-processed at DeVos Place Monday.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation in October that gives clerks in cities or townships of more than 25,000 residents the ability to begin processing absentee ballots the day before Election Day.

So beginning at 10:00am Monday, several dozen volunteers began that process in one of the empty exhibition halls at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

“This is something we’ve asked for as clerks for a long time. We said, either give us more money or more time. So, this year we got both,” said Joel Hondrop, Clerk for the City of Grand Rapids.

No votes are actually tabulated on Monday. The volunteers are only able to do so much with the ballots during these 10 hours of pre-processing.

“We’re taking the secrecy sleeve that holds the [ballot] out of the envelope, making sure the voter returned the right ballot, then we’re going to put those secrecy sleeves into a secured sealed container," Hondrop told FOX 17 Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday morning they will double check everything, make sure nothing has changed overnight, and then the actual tabulating of votes can begin at 7:00am Tuesday.

“That saves us a ton of time, and the quicker we can get to the tabulators, the quicker we’ll get results,” Hondrop said.

There were about 52,000 absentee ballots being processed in the City of Grand Rapids Monday.

“To put it in perspective," Hondrop said. "In the 2016 Presidential Election, the City of Grand Rapids tabulated 16,000 absentee ballots."

While the goal of this pre processing is to save time, and in turn have results ready quicker, Hondrop says accuracy is their top priority.

“We’re not going to give up accuracy and preciseness and security for haste, just to get results. Because we want to make sure every vote is counted and counted properly.”

If you haven't already sent off an absentee ballot, Hondrop reminds everyone to make a plan before voting Tuesday.

“Don't put it in the mail today please," Hondrop said Monday afternoon. "We have our drop boxes in the city of Grand Rapids. Make sure you put it in the drop box for your municipality, or your city or township.”

DROP BOX LOCATIONS: Find yours here.

"Help us out. We’re busy, we've got a lot of stuff to do... make it easier on us, make sure you’re using the correct drop box.”

SAMPLE BALLOT: Familiarize yourself before voting.
STILL NEED TO REGISTER: Find out how to register last minute.
FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE: Locate where you will vote.
ABSENTEE BALLOT: Check the status of your absentee ballot.
EVERYTHING ELSE: Check Michigan's voting website for more information.