Bentley school’s special election sees high voter turnout

Clerk believes mostly absentee ballot election could be a sign of things to come


Barhitte Elementary will receive a number of improvements following passage May 5 of the 2020 bond proposal in Bentley Community Schools. Photo by Gary Gould

Barhitte Elementary will receive a number of improvements following passage May 5 of the 2020 bond proposal in Bentley Community Schools. Photo by Gary Gould

BURTON — City Clerk Racheal Boggs said she thinks the May 5 special election for voters in the Bentley School District, conducted almost entirely by absentee ballot, was a practice run for the primary election in August.

Boggs said the special election, in which voters approved a $2.2 million bond renewal (no tax increase) of a current 0.6 mills of debt, to finance repair and renovations of infrastructure in Bentley Community Schools, was conducted entirely by absentee ballot with one voting place open.

Voters approved the measure by a vote of 732- 433.

Boggs said there are 7,000 registered voters in the three Burton precincts covering the Bentley district. Absentee voter applications were sent to all registered voters and Boggs said she received back 2,297 applications for ballots.

Of those ballots sent out, 1,744, or 76 percent, were completed and returned.

Boggs said the special election could be a trial run for the larger primary election in august, and possibly even for a strictly absentee ballot general election in November.

“I think during the scare of the pandemic we could easily see a mail only election for August,” she said. “We’ll have all 12 precincts, and a lengthy ballot with various proposals and candidates on it.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Michigan saw record-breaking turnout for the approximately 50 elections in 33 counties and 200 municipalities across the state May 5, with nearly 25 percent of eligible voters participating and 99 percent of those voters casting absent voter ballots.

“It was a very inspiring day,” said Benson. “And it went even better than expected. Our local election officials deserve tremendous credit for their ability to administer a safe, successful election under unprecedented circumstances. The record-breaking high turnout in (the May 5) local elections is a testament to their efforts, and underscores how deeply committed Michigan citizens are to weighing in on the critical issues facing their communities and our society, even during a pandemic. Voters know how important it is to maintain our democratic institutions in times of crisis, and the data from yesterday proves that.”

Boggs agrees that voter turnout for the May 5 election was higher than usual and for the most part, the process went smoothly. But, she said, it was still a challenge with one person at city hall to assist voters and the rest counting absentee votes.

“I feel we will be more prepared in August, our actions may be more timely,” said Boggs. “For May ballot applications were sent out I the eleventh hour, we were still getting ballots, we were unprepared…it’s the nature of the beast.”

If the city again has to conduct an absentee ballot only election in August, she said the city will need more staff and they’ll need to send out the applications sooner. There is the possibility, said Boggs, the city may have to use the same format in November.

“Each election will prepare us for the next,” she said. “By then maybe we’ll be pros at it, maybe not.”

All Michigan voters already have the right to vote from home and the ability to automatically receive absentee applications mailed to them, said Benson.

Those interested in joining the permanent absent voter application list can sign up at Michigan.gov/Vote by entering their name, birthday and zip code to find their registration, then clicking the green button to join the list.

“Voters can be certain of two things: elections will happen on time, and they will happen safely and securely,” said Benson. “My top goal is to protect voting rights and the public health, and no matter what August and November look like nationally, we will do both in Michigan.”