University of Michigan undergraduates can still leave their homes to vote under Washtenaw County’s stay-in-place order — just try to use ballot drop boxes instead of the mail, officials warn.
Over the summer, concerns grew about the efficiency of voting by mail, with slowed service times fueling fears that ballots sent through the United States Postal Service will not be received by election night. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement Tuesday that with only a week before ballots are due, the Postal Service should be considered “a last resort” method for returning a completed ballot.
“We are too close to Election Day, and the right to vote is too important, to rely on the Postal Service to deliver absentee ballots on time,” Benson said. “Citizens who already have an absentee ballot should sign the back of the envelope and hand-deliver it to their city or township clerk’s office or ballot drop box as soon as possible. Voters who haven’t yet received their ballot should go to their clerk’s office to request it in person. They can fill it out, sign the envelope and submit it all in one trip.”
University leaders, in lockstep with local and state officials, have been quick to make the case for the importance of voting and remind undergraduates the stay-in-place order exempts election-related activities, including working at polling stations and participating in campaign outreach. Figures from University President Mark Schlissel to Provost Susan Collins have urged the campus to get to the polls.
“I urge you to exercise your right to vote,” Martino Harmon, vice president for Student Life, wrote in an email to students and staff Tuesday. “I myself just voted this past Friday. It was easy — in and out in under 10 minutes because I was already registered and I looked up my sample ballot before I went to the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s satellite office in UMMA.”
The stay-in-place order lasts until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3. Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry said she wants students to get involved before the restrictions expire, noting the allowances for election activities.
“The Stay in Place order expires on Election morning, but we would like to encourage students who are able to come early to UMMA to register to avoid longer lines on Election Day,” Beaudry wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily. “The Stay in Place Order has an exemption for students registering and/or voting so I would welcome students to continue to do that this week.”
Voters can also have someone in their immediate family or a member of their household — including students’ roommates in Ann Arbor — deliver their ballot. Students in quarantine or isolation housing who live in residence halls can have their ballots brought from their normal mailbox to their temporary residence, according to UMich Votes, a nonpartisan voter information page.
Registered voters can get absentee ballots at their clerk’s office until 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. Unregistered voters can register at their clerk office and then vote with an absentee ballot there up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
The city clerk’s satellite office at the University of Michigan Museum of Art opened in September to help students register to vote and cast their ballots in the upcoming election.
Beaudry said since the onset of the order, the satellite office saw its numbers drop by 50%.
Before the order, the office averaged between 150 and 180 student registrations per day. But since the new guidelines were issued, those numbers have dropped to around 60 to 70. A low of 27 students came to register last Saturday, Beaudry added.
Beaudry also noted that the onset of the order coincided with the requirement for voters to provide proof of residency in the final two weeks before an election, so “we are not sure which caused the sudden decline.”
One bright spot: Students who are already registered are still coming to get their ballots and vote, she said.
Beaudry said there was a “huge push” to register students on Oct. 19, which was the day before the order went into effect and the last day to register without proof of residency. According to Beaudry, that was the office’s busiest day so far with 282 registrations.
As of Monday, more than 3,882 voters have registered at UMMA and around 5,620 ballots have been collected at the location’s drop box.
Residents can register to vote up until Election Day, a change from the previous policy with earlier registration deadlines when Michigan voters passed Proposal 3 in 2018.
Ballots received by 8 p.m. on Election Day will be counted.
Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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