Early Voting Plans Underway in Washtenaw County
In preparation for the upcoming November 7, 2023, General Election, Washtenaw County is making strides toward facilitating early voting (EV) for its residents. This follows the 2022-2 ballot initiative approved last November that sought to expand voters' rights, allowing them to vote in person at designated polling locations for nine days preceding the actual election.
Ed Golembiewski, Washtenaw County Director of Elections, detailed the ongoing efforts. "There are a number of things happening around the county,” Golembiewski explained. “We have offered all 26 municipalities the option to enter into a county-coordinated agreement."
This agreement would see the County Clerk and County Election Commission teaming up with city and township clerks to set up EV sites to serve those municipalities choosing to enter the agreement. This approach aims to pool resources and eliminate the need for every municipality to manage its own EV site.
As mandated by the Constitution and recent provisions from Senate Bill 367 of the Michigan Election Law, municipalities in the state have three options for EV:
- Conduct EV independently.
- Collaborate with neighboring municipalities within the county for joint EV.
- Collaborate with the county for a county-wide EV.
Whichever model is chosen, every EV site must remain open for at least eight hours within the nine-day window, starting the second Saturday before Election Day and concluding the preceding Sunday.
Golembiewski noted, "There are 23 municipalities that are choosing to do that." For residents on the western side of the county, most municipalities have opted for this arrangement, with three exceptions. "The City of Ann Arbor, the City of Milan, and Bridgewater Township will conduct early voting independently," he added.
Under this agreement, the county commits to:
- Supply all required voting equipment. Any equipment utilized on the actual election day is barred from EV usage. Thus, municipalities may need to acquire new tabulators. Fortunately, the County is optimistic about receiving state funds to cover equipment costs.
- Take charge of the recruitment and training of all election inspectors, who are essential for the smooth running of the EV process.
- Handle the advertisement of the EV sites, ensuring uniformity in hours of operation across the county, except in Ann Arbor, Milan, and Bridgewater. For instance, Dexter voters can use their designated EV location and the primary county-wide site. A notable highlight is the county's intent to include at least one day with extended evening hours for voters.
The overarching plan is for two early vote sites to cater to the remaining municipalities. However, Golembiewski emphasized that all details are not set in stone yet. "We have not finalized all of the agreements just yet. So, we can't say, with absolute certainty, what those locations are."
Furthermore, the county plans for a central EV site to be available for voters from any 23 participating municipalities. "There'll be another site, considered a central site, county-wide," Golembiewski said. This site will be at the county-owned Learning Resource Center on Washtenaw at Hogback. "The idea here is that we know voters tend to do business or work in the Ann Arbor area,” he added. “This would be a second site they could visit if they happen to be around or wanted to make a trip to that site instead for some reason."
As the planning progresses, specifics about the exact locations and details will be unveiled.