Washtenaw's director of elections outlines what voters are deciding in the November 2nd election
On Tuesday, November 2nd, about half of Washtenaw County's population has something to vote on when casting a ballot in the election.
WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with Washtenaw County director of elections Ed Golembiewski about the election and what issues voters are deciding.
Lisa Barry: November 2nd is Election Day in many communities, including in Washtenaw County. I'm Lisa Barry, and joining us now to talk about what voters will find on the ballot is County Director of Elections Ed Golembiewski. Thanks for talking to us.
Ed Golembiewski: Oh, you're very welcome. Thanks for having me.
Lisa Barry: How busy of a ballot and election process has this been for you?
Ed Golembiewski: As you mentioned, voters in several communities have an election on November 2nd, including the city of Ann Arbor. Voters will have four charter amendments to vote on there. And then there are city council and mayoral elections happening in the cities of Chelsea and Milan and a City Council election in the city of Saline and a millage proposal in Pittsfield Township. In addition to that, voters in a very small area of the county in the Columbia School District also have a proposal to vote on. So, what that adds up to is roughly half of the county, population-wise, does have some item on the ballot on Tuesday.
Lisa Barry: I think we've heard the most about the Ann Arbor ballot initiative returning to ranked choice voting and that, even if they approve it, will not go into effect unless the state approves it. Correct?
Ed Golembiewski: That's correct. It would take legislative action at at the state level to actually implement ranked choice voting.
Lisa Barry: If it's approved, how unique would that be?
Ed Golembiewski: Well, Ann Arbor would join the ranks of really just a small number of communities right now. The city of Ferndale has adopted ranked choice voting, but has not been able to implement it yet for the same reason. And Eastpointe actually did implement ranked choice voting for city elections held for the last couple of years, and Eastpointe did implement ranked choice voting, as a result of a Department of Justice directive, over the past couple of city elections that they've held.
Lisa Barry: Looks like Pittsfield Township did a pretty quick pivot and put the public safety tax hike back on the ballot.
Ed Golembiewski: Yeah, that's correct. Voters did reject it once this year, and it is back on the ballot in a modified form on Tuesday.
Lisa Barry: Register to vote. How long do we have to do that?
Ed Golembiewski: Voters can still register in Michigan. You can now register up to eight p.m. on Election Day. So, if you haven't registered yet or need to update your voter registration, there's still time to do that. You will need to visit your city or township clerk's office in person in order to do that. The clerk's offices are open today, Monday, and, of course, tomorrow, Tuesday, Election Day up until eight p.m.. What the voter will need to do, or the new voter--prospective voter--will need to bring is proof of residency, given that we are in the narrow window of time right before and on Election Day. Voters are legally required to show proof of residency when they register, and that would include a Michigan driver's license or state ID, a current utility bill or bank statement, a paycheck or other government check, or another government document. But, otherwise, voters can, of course, go in person to register again until eight p.m. on Election Day, and they can receive a ballot right then and there at the clerk's office.
Lisa Barry: What percentage of the population in Washtenaw County is registered to vote?
Ed Golembiewski: Well, in Washtenaw County, it's quite a high number. It's around 95, 96 percent of the population that is eligible to register to vote. Those folks are. So, we see a very high rate of registration. Currently, there are about 320,000 registered voters in Washtenaw County.
Lisa Barry: And absentee voting still playing a big part in this election?
Ed Golembiewski: It very much is. And, in fact, most ballots cast during this election will be cast by absentee ballot. At present, there's about 20,000 absentee ballots that have been received by voters for this election, and that number will continue to go up. Ballots can be submitted. Absentee ballots can be returned by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. So, if you still have your absentee ballot and have it sent back or delivered it back to your clerk's office, now is the time to do that. And it would be best, given how close we are to the election, to do that in person. You can deliver it directly to the city or township clerk's office or to a drop box that's located in your community.
Lisa Barry: Are you seeing an increasing trend in that's how people want to or choose to vote in Washtenaw County?
Ed Golembiewski: Absolutely, yes. We saw a dramatic increase last year, of course, as a result of the pandemic. Voters opting to vote as safely as they could from home. And that trend has continued this year. We've held elections in May and in August and seen a significant increase in the number of absentee ballots issued. And again, it will probably account, you know, voters casting an absentee ballot will probably account for something like 85 percent of all ballots cast in this election.
Lisa Barry: Ah, yes, the pandemic. How could I forget? But you'll, despite that, you will still have all of your polls staffed and people can vote in person?
Ed Golembiewski: That's right. Polls will be open tomorrow from 7:00 a.m. until eight p.m.. Voters should expect to see PPE in use and, of course, hand sanitizer and other ways that we can try to minimize the risk. But, yes, polling locations will be open as usual and will be fully staffed by poll workers ready to assist.
Lisa Barry: How long in the night do you think it will be to count up and tally the results?
Ed Golembiewski: We're expecting it to be a relatively early night. I do expect that we'll see most results, if not 100 percent of results, reported by around 11:00.
Lisa Barry: So, that's pretty early for you.
Ed Golembiewski: Yes, you know, it's different than elections that are held in even years when we're when we're dealing with ballots that are very long and large numbers of voters turning out. It takes longer to be able to close the polls after eight o'clock. And so, therefore, it takes longer for us to report election results.
Lisa Barry: Anything else voters need to know?
Ed Golembiewski: I will just add voters can visit michigan dot gov to check their voter registration, find their sample ballot, and find their polling location.
Lisa Barry: Washtenaw County Director of Elections Ed Golembiewski. Thanks so much for talking to us.
Ed Golembiewski: You're very welcome. Thank you for having me.
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