Some individuals and elected officials from the local Jewish community are working hard to ensure that Election Day and the absentee ballot count go smoothly.
Eligible voters are being besieged by many sources to plan their November vote — especially since a new state law permits early voting by mail or in person by filling out an absentee ballot at the local clerk’s office.
Record turnouts have been forecast with concern about crowded polling places being a health risk during the pandemic. Election officials were concerned that poll workers, who tend to be older adults, might not want to participate this year. However, some individuals and elected officials from the local Jewish community are working hard to ensure that Election Day and the absentee ballot count go smoothly.
The August primary provided a “trial run” and officials in several local communities reported some difficulty recruiting sufficient poll workers. Debbie Binder, West Bloomfield Township clerk, said, “We were losing them as fast as we found them.”
However, since August, West Bloomfield has recruited 200 workers and hopes to staff two shifts on Election Day and into the night. Individuals who are interested in working at the polls or processing absentee ballots in West Bloomfield can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bloomfield Township, Farmington Hills and Southfield have been able to fill their positions for Nov. 3.
This year is the first time that all eligible, registered Michigan voters can request a mail-in ballot without providing a reason for not being able to vote in person. As of the week of Oct. 15, 2.8 million Michigan voters had requested a mail-in ballot according to Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state. This means that election officials face the dual challenge of COVID and a potentially large volume of absentee/mail-in ballots to verify and tabulate.
While some poll workers chose not to return this year, probably due to COVID, others were inspired to work for the first time during this particular presidential election. “It sounded like they would need extra people because of all of the absentee ballots. I want to do my part. This is very important to me,” said Janice Allweiss Young, 66, of Farmington Hills. She expected it to be a volunteer position, but election workers are paid — generally about $230 for training and Election Day work.
“I wanted to do my part to make sure that this is safe and fair. I needed to be part of it. I didn’t want to be passive,” said Nancy Silverman, 69, of Bloomfield Township. She was initially hesitant because of COVID but was reassured by safety precautions at the precinct during the primary. Poll workers were spaced out, given masks and face shields and there was a “sanitation station” along with masks for any voter who didn’t bring one. Pens were wiped off after each use.
West Bloomfield has many returning poll workers who consider their efforts to be both enjoyable and worthwhile. Bruce Sitron, 65, of West Bloomfield is an Election Day chair who has worked the polls for about 15 years. “I enjoy doing it. I’m doing something good — it’s a mitzvah. Voters like to see continuity — they like to see the same people every time,” he explained.
During the August primary, Sitron said that there were two voters who refused to wear masks so “we got them in and out as fast as we could.” On Nov. 3, “we’ll be prepared and ready for it as we always are. We’ll be safe,” Sitron said.
Mimi Markofsky, 64, of West Bloomfield is also a returning chairperson for the township’s polls. Because of family health issues, she had some concerns about working this year due to COVID. However, Markofsky said that the state, county and township provided extensive protective equipment and that only one voter out of 194 in August refused to wear a mask. The precinct had a separate area for voters without masks.
“I love it. I’ve been a political junkie since college. I feel like I’m doing my civic duty and helping my community. It’s a long day but fulfilling,” she said.
Don’t Delay Mail Ballots
Binder urges absentee/mail-in voters not to delay so that there is time for notification if there is a problem with the signature on their ballot envelope. A considerable number of absentee ballots in the primary election lacked signatures or had other issues.
Oakland County will provide absentee voter tabulation for 16 local municipalities; other townships and cities in the county handle their own. County Clerk Lisa Brown said that the county has a high-speed scanner and tabulator and as a result, their tabulation of more than 50,000 absentee ballots was completed early for the August primary. She anticipates an increase in absentee voting in November — perhaps as many as 125,000 absentee ballots. All ballots are checked against the qualified voter file and “nothing touches the internet,” Brown said, both of which strengthen election integrity.
Watch the video with tips for voting:
For information about where and how to vote, visit mi.gov/vote or call the clerk for your city or township.