BURTON — The city clerk says her office is in good shape for the Nov. 3 election and estimates her staff can have the enormous number of absentee ballots received this year processed within 11 hours.
That was the word from Clerk Rachel Ervin-Boggs at the Oct. 19 meeting of the Burton City Council when asked to give a report about how things were going in her office leading up to the general election.
City Councilman Dennis O’Keefe brought the subject up when he told the council he’d heard from a number of people who asked how the city was doing with the surge in absentee ballots due to COVID-19.
Boggs said things have been “incredibly busy” in the clerk’s office with people coming in to vote, spoiled ballots, getting new ballots and asking questions.
“We currently have 7,646 ballots out and 61.81 percent return, so we have 4,226 ballots in the clerk’s office as of right now (as of Oct. 19), they are coming in at a rate of 300-500 per day,” said Boggs. “Today, we received approximately 460 ballots. Many people are using the drop box, which is another way to return your ballot without having to rely on post office.”
She said her office has been busy with mailing applications and issuing absentee ballots by the hundreds still every day. Staff takes the ballots directly to the post office by the end of the day to ensure they are delivered in a timely manner, said Boggs.
Currently, she said the city has about 100 workers scheduled for the polling locations on election day. She said she’s added four absentee voting boards to the existing 12 precincts, bringing the total number of precincts to 16 for election day.
Those workers include coordinators, help desk people with sanitizers at each location for shared items like pens, secrecy sleeves, voting stations and work areas.
Overall, Boggs said the upcoming election has kept things extremely busy in the clerk’s office, but she praised her staff for their efforts.
“The girls have been working many hours and we’re all very exhausted. But I have to give it to them, they are a fairly new staff and I don’t hear them complain one single bit,” she said.
Boggs said it’s still difficult to get everything done and her staff is going to continue to work hard and work overtime through the election.
She said the clerk’s office is open on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to vote absentee or drop off ballots that they’ve forgotten to mail. The clerk’s office is always open the Saturday before any election, she added.
O’Keefe asked when the clerk’s office is able to start processing the absentee ballots.
Boggs said prior to Oct. 16, a court had ruled local clerks could do some pre-processing which included only slicing the envelope open and removing the secrecy sleeve – not removing the ballot and not tabulating the ballot.
On Oct. 16, the Michigan Court of Appeals overruled that decision and said they can’t do that.
Boggs said she’d already decided not to do any pre-processing because she thought it might be wasteful spending to pay staff to do that when the only thing they could do was slice the envelopes and remove the secrecy sleeve.
“We could take out the ballot, we couldn’t tabulate and couldn’t even organize the ballots,” she said. “We organize so well in our office I found it unnecessary to do any preprocessing.”
Boggs said her office will open and count absentee ballots on election day beginning at 8 a.m. with four, 5-person teams of people, processing all the way up to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots can e returned to the city up until 8 p.m., Nov. 3.
“I’m pretty confident we can process all the absentee votes. We have a pretty good team on the AV (absentee voting) counting boards,” she said. “We’ve dissected it right down to the hour on how long it takes them to process ballots, because this will be our fourth election this year, so we’ve had some practice.”
Boggs said by her estimation it will take about 11 hours to effectively count the ballots.
O’Keefe said he’d heard from residents who praised the clerk’s office for handling calls and questions about the election and he thanked Boggs and her staff for their work.
“(Residents have) been super complimentary,” he said. “On behalf of the council and administration, Madam Clerk, job well done, mission accomplished. Please pass that on to your subordinates.”