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County clerk says absentee ballot ruling shouldn't have major impact on Ottawa County

Posted at 4:31 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 16:31:31-04

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — A court of claims decision issued Friday could allow more absentee ballots to be counted here in Michigan.

Judge Cynthia Stephens order says that all absentee ballots mailed and postmarked by November 2 must be counted, as long as they arrive within the 14 day window following election day.

“The board of county canvassers in every county has a statutory responsibility. There are 4 members— 2 democratic, 2 republican members and they go through and audit the results of the election. They have 14 days to do that,”said Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County's Clerk.

Roebuck says that typically some counties will finish that process up before the full 14-day window, but Friday's decision means they will have to wait the full 2 week period before certifying election results.

“What this ruling obviously means for the canvassing period is that it must remain open for the full 14 days following the election, which essentially in many places may delay the election being certified until November 18," he told FOX 17 Friday afternoon.

So while the order will delay results from being certified, Roebuck says it shouldn't mean a significant workload for Ottawa County.

“In Ottawa County we had over 49,000 ballots that were cast absentee in the August primary election we just had, and out of that 49,000 we got 135 ballots that were returned late,” he said.

“So realistically we’re talking about a small percentage of voters who have turned their ballot in late.”

If you do mail in an absentee ballot, you are able to check the status of it at the State of Michigan's website.

“We understand that election mail is a priority for the postal system, but just allow a little more time to make sure your ballot gets there,” Roebuck said.

If you are worried about the postal service getting your ballot where it needs to go, you can always drop it off in person.

“At every single city and township hall in Ottawa County there is an election drop box and an absentee ballot drop box,” Roebuck said.

“We’re feeling good and we’re feeling confident that this election is going to go smooth here. We’ve faced a lot of challenges, as everyone else has, in 2020 but we want people to know they can feel confident voting here and across Michigan.”

You can find out more information about Ottawa County's elections process at the county website.