2018-08-02 / Front Page

Absentee ballots lagging

Election set for Tuesday
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

How many of Leelanau County’s 19,957 registered voters will actually head to the polls on Tuesday is anybody’s guess.

But several township clerks who administer elections in Leelanau County are guessing voter turnout will be lower than usual this year based on the number of absentee ballots they have processed so far.

Polls in all 11 of Leelanau County’s townships for the Primary Election will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.

Those who hope to vote by absentee ballot are running out of time to obtain a ballot by mail but can show up at their township office as late as Monday and get one in person if they fill it in at the office.

Emergency ballots can be obtained as late as 4 p.m. election day if the emergency occurs after Saturday at 2 p.m., a request is provided in writing, and the ballot is completed and returned by the time polls close.

Historically, voter turnout in Leelanau County is often highest in Glen Arbor Township. But things appear to be shaping up a little differently this election season.

“There’s no apathy here,” said Glen Arbor Township Clerk Bonnie Quick. “But I’m really surprised by how few absentee ballots were requested and how few have been returned so far.”

As of earlier this week, only 90 absentee ballots had been requested and sent to voters when usually the number is closer to 200, Quick said. As of Tuesday, only about 50 absentee ballots had been returned.

“We’re never that far behind,” Quick said. “For whatever reason, I just don’t think the interest is there.”

Things appear a little different in Elmwood Township where clerk Connie Preston said the number of absentee ballots sent out, 661 as of this week, was up 29-percent from the Primary Election held four years ago. More than half of those, about 58-percent have been returned, she said.

“If absentee ballots are an indication – and they usually are – we could have a turnout of well over 50-percent here in Elmwood Township,” Preston said. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that we have a millage proposal for Elmwood fire and rescue on the ballot this year – but I’m just speculating.”

At the other end of the county, in Leelanau Township, Clerk Deborah Van Pelt noted that there are two township millage proposals on the ballot this year – but the absentee ballot numbers are dismal nonetheless.

Van Pelt said she sent out 233 absentee ballots to voters who requested them and as of earlier this week 153 of them had been returned.

“Usually, we’re sending out about 300 absentee ballots for an August Primary in a gubernatorial election year,” Van Pelt said. “I understand people don’t like the fact that they can’t split their ballot between parties during the Primary, but our numbers are definitely down from previous years,” she said.

In Suttons Bay Township, Clerk Sandra Van Huystee said the number of absentee ballots processed so far is “about average, but maybe a little lower than usual.”

She sent out 257 absentee ballots this election cycle when usually the number is around 300. Only 159 of those ballots had been returned as of earlier this week.

“I’m kind of surprised,” Van Huystee said. “We’ve got candidates on both sides of the ballot from governor on down – and that’s not always been the case.

“You’d think we’d have a little more participation from voters this year, but we’re not seeing it in the absentee ballots,” Van Huystee said.

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