2016-11-03 / Front Page

Election officials prepare for write-ins

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

The end is near.

With less than a week to go before the General Election, the entire country is bracing for what is sure to be a long election night.

Included are Leelanau County voters who will help decide their representation in the White House, Congress, the State House, and at the local levels of county, township, and school governments.

Interest has been high.

“If the number of absentee ballots requested is any indication, we should have a fantastic turnout,” county Clerk Michelle Crocker said.

More than a quarter of the registered voters in the county cast absentee ballots. Their ballots are the same as those handed to voters as they go to the polls.

“They start on the top with the president, congress, legislative and state boards of education,” Crocker said of the ballot lineup. “Then there’s county officials and township officials.”

That’s on the front page. On the flip-side, voters will find non-partisan races for judges, villages and boards of education.

Unlike most general elections, this cycle a number of Leelanau County voters are being asked to “write-in” candidates.

In Kasson Township sitting supervisor Fred Lanham — who fell to trustee Greg Julian in the August Primary — has filed as a write-in candidate. Lanham lost to Julian by five votes, 112-107.

The option is also available in Suttons Bay and Bingham townships, where a significant number of candidates will be elected as write-ins.

For instance, four seats are available on the Suttons Bay Board of Education but only present School Board member David Buffum’s name will appear on the ballot. He was the only candidate to meet the filing deadline.

Write-in candidates had until the end of business Friday to turn in their “declaration of intent.” The form is required for their write-in votes to be tabulated.

Four people met the filing deadline: Jennifer Lynn Porter, Jennifer Anne Lewis, Erik Bahle and Gregory Gurka.

Likewise, write-in candidates will fill the offices of Suttons Bay Village president and at least one trustee.

Village President Harry Brandt did not seek re-election. Two candidates have launched write-in campaigns for the post: longtime council member and business owner Karl Bahle, and newcomer Steve Lutke, co-owner of the Hop Lot Brewing Co..

Three trustee seats are also available on the Suttons Bay Village Council. However, the only names appearing on the ballot will be Colleen Christensen and Will Case.

Two other village residents filed as write-in candidates by Friday’s deadline: Richard M. Catton and Roger H. Suppes.

After the decisions of voters have been made, how are they counted in Leelanau County?

As ballots are entered into the tabulator, they are separated into those with write-ins and those without. Then comes the real work.

“The precinct workers take the writein ballots, record the different variations of a name listed and using a hash mark, identify how many votes were cast for each,” Crocker said. “If there’s 100 different variations, they have to record each variation.”

It will be up to the county Board of Canvassers to determine which spellings count. They are scheduled to meet from noon to 5 p.m., next Wednesday, the day after the election.

“They have a pretty broad view when they’re looking at them,” the Clerk said.

For example, a write-in candidate named “Dick” would likely be credited with a vote if their name was listed as “Richard” or “Rich.”

“Unless there’s a really close race, we should know who the winners are Tuesday night,” Crocker said.

Leelanau has traditionally ranked among the top counties in the state when it comes to voter turnout.

Going back to November 1960, a record 4,594 voters went to the polls representing 82.6 percent of those registered.

Fast forward 50-plus years, and the number of those registered to cast ballots on the peninsula has multiplied times 4. Enthusiasm for performing what has been called an American’s most important civic duty remains high.

During the last presidential election in 2012, 73 percent of registered voters in the county participated. Turnout was even higher in the 2004 and 2008 general elections, when 79 percent of Leelanau registered voters cast ballots.

In 2012, Glen Arbor Township topped all other townships with a 79.5 percent voting rate. The previous presidential election in the same community, the figure 84 percent.

Some 20,062 people are registered to cast ballots in the county this year.

Rest assured, elections officials are prepared to count all the votes cast.

“We’re ready,” Crocker said.

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