By Don Rush
Local government clerks across the state are in high gear these days as the 2020 Presidential Election nears. This year, unlike in previous presidential elections, the amount of mail-in ballots, social mistrust and pandemic turmoil makes their jobs tougher.
When asked if this has been the hardest pre-election process she has been involved with, veteran Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett was optimistic, “Every presidential election is busy.”
However she added, “What makes this pre-election most challenging is the uncertainty we are living with right now and things that are said about the election process. The new dual applications for March and August were confusing and slowed the clerk’s process down.”
Absentee voting is not new. The only thing new is you do not need to disclose a reason for an absentee ballot.
Bennett said, “The safe guards are still there, the process is secure , we verify each signature and the ballots are secured until Election Day.”
The number of absentee voter ballots in both Oxford and Addison township are up from the last presidential election. Last week, The Leader reported Oxford had sent out 6,150 ballots, nearly double what was requested and sent in 2016 (3,234). In Addison Township, Bennett expects the Clerk’s office will probably send out absentee voter ballots to 50 percent of the township’s 5,119 registered voters. As of last week, she mailed out 2,118 ballots, almost triple of what was mailed in 2016 (875).
For those with the absentee ballots, both townships have drop boxes so voters do not have to mail.
“You can drop your ballot off at the township any time prior to close of the polls, although earlier is better,” She said, adding, “If you forget to sign or your signature that day is similar is hard to make out, we can call you and you’ll have a chance to correct. The signature verification is typically the same signature on your driver’s license.”
The Addison Township Clerk works with four local post offices, Lakeville, Leonard, Oxford and Dryden. And, she has nothing but praise for the postal workers there.
“We drop off ballots daily to 3 of them,” Bennett said. Each of the local post office go above and beyond to get your ballots to you. Most residents receive their ballots within two days some in one day. Absolutely amazing performance from our local post offices.”
Last month, Bennett applied for and was awarded a $5,000 grant to be used for the election. The grant, from The Center for Tech and Civic Life, was used to purchased a new ballot envelope opener and to offset costs of running an election. The new envelope opener will help streamline the process this year.
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Bennett wants to assure those opting to vote in person, the clerk’s office, polling workers and the polls are ready and up for the challenge.
“Our precincts are equipped with barriers, touchless drivers license area, one use pens, and voting booths will be wiped down after use. Addison poll workers will try to make your voting experience as safe as possible,” she said.
Also, Bennett has trained more poll workers for this election than in past, to make election day run smoother. “With covid and a record number of high voter turnout we scheduled extra poll workers. I have eight poll workers for each of our three precincts. Normally, it’s six. There are nine scheduled for our absent voter counting board.”
Bennett wants to assure voters that every ballot will be counted whether in-person, by mail or dropped off. If voters are going to mail in their ballots, she recommends mailing them earlier is better.