Since becoming eligible to vote in 2011, I’ve always made it a point to vote in-person at every election. There’s nothing quite like that warm sense of patriotism and civic duty that I feel when I head to my precinct, fill out my ballot and place it in the tabulator. I also like to greet the election workers and bump into friends and neighbors who live in my township.
But with COVID-19 continuing to be a public health menace this summer, I decided to play it safe and vote absentee for the first time in the Aug. 4 primary.
Even though I prefer to vote in-person, I thought it would be wise to just vote from home this year to avoid any possibility of contracting the virus at the polls. I’m also planning to vote absentee in November, given the grim coronavirus projections that have been laid out for the fall.
Thankfully, absentee voting is a lot more accessible these days, following the passage of the statewide ballot proposal 18-3 in 2018. Now, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan can request to have an absentee ballot and do not have to provide a reason.
The secretary of state also sent out mass mailings of absentee ballot applications this summer to registered voters across Michigan, including voters like me who were not on a permanent absentee voter list. I got my application in late June.
Once I received my application, I filled it out, sent it in to my local clerk and got by my ballot about a week later. After I filled out my ballot, all I had to do was include my signature, date the return envelope and deliver the ballot to my township’s drop box.
Voting absentee gave me ample time to go online, check candidates’ websites and read up more on proposals. I think I also had a little extra motivation to get informed ahead of time— knowing that I would have to turn my absentee ballot in before the Aug. 4 election.
From my perspective, absentee voting is a convenient and advantageous way to participate in the electoral process. I know some voters have concerns about the security of absentee voting, but our township and city clerks work hard to check each ballot application and weed out any potential fraud.
Voting absentee might not be as rewarding as going to the polls on Election Day, but you won’t have to stand in long lines. More importantly, absentee voting is a safer alternative to voting in-person, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. You won’t be at risk of catching the virus at the polls or inadvertently spreading it to election workers or other voters.
If you’re a registered voter and haven’t already received an absentee ballot application for next Tuesday’s election, there’s still time to request one from your local township or municipality. You can ask for an absent voter ballot in person at your clerk’s office anytime up to 4 p.m. on the day prior to the election (which will be this Monday).
Whether you’re heading to the polls or filling out your absentee ballot at home, be sure to participate in the Aug. 4 primary. Every vote truly does count.
Ben Gagnon is a reporter for View Newspaper Group. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.