How to make your vote count ahead of Election Day
Fannie Tyler orchestrated Aretha Franklin's funeral, which took more time than most coronations. But her absentee ballot for the midterm elections?
That was long.
“Extremely long,” says Tyler, 79, of Detroit. On top of that, the print was small. And where it seems like there used to be a precinct delegate who'd stop by her church with helpful explanations ... Nope, not this year.
She managed, though. And relax: So will you. With the number of absentee ballots requested in Michigan accelerating toward presidential-election levels, here are a few key facts about how to get them and make them count:
-- You can still ask for an absentee ballot by mail. Put the request in writing to your city or township clerk by 2 p.m. Saturday. Or, you can show up at the clerk's office to fill one out by 4 p.m. Monday. Local clerks' offices will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. until at least 2 p.m.
-- Absentee ballots need to be in the clerk's hand by 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls close. A Monday postmark cuts no weight if your ballot doesn't arrive until Wednesday.
-- Set aside plenty of time to make your choices. The Republican-led legislature has outlawed straight-ticket voting, so that time-saver will be unavailable for the first time since 1891. And the 2018 ballots truly are lengthy, with three statewide initiatives and judges and school board members and bond issues and such.
If you try to vote on your lunch hour, in other words, it might turn out to be your lunch hour-and-a-half. But voting is both a right and a rite, and there's no bonus for speed.
Just be glad you get to vote the scoundrels out. Or vote the saints in. Or vice-versa. It's your call, your duty, and your privilege.
Or maybe you've already turned in your ballot, like Tyler. She dropped hers off last Friday at the Detroit city clerk's office at 2978 West Grand Blvd.
The rest of us? Look on the bright side: they probably had election-day vexations in the old days, too, and they had to ride horses to the polling place. You only think you have to hold your nose sometimes.
According to the Secretary of State's office in Lansing, 1,161,383 absentee ballots had been requested by Thursday afternoon. That's a lot: only 758,624 were requested for the last midterm election in 2014. With a late rush, this year's total could top the 1,227,261 requested for the presidential election in 2016.
If you're over 60, unable to vote at the polls without assistance, expecting to be out of town, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, constricted for religious reasons, or working as an election inspector at a precinct not your own, you can vote absentee.
Requests for absentee ballots can be made in writing to your city or township clerk. For most people, it might be easier just to show up at the clerk's office; they'll all be open Saturday from 9 a.m. until at least 2.
"For us," says Westland city clerk Richard LeBlanc, "the sole purpose (of being open Saturday) will be to issue and receive ballots. We're not going to process water bills."
The next notable deadline is 4 p.m. Monday. That's the cutoff for voting an absentee ballot at your clerk's office, and "If you show up at 4:05, the ballot is not going to be issued," LeBlanc says. "We have had that happen."
Your best option then would be to report to your polling place between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday. Not sure where that is? Check www.michigan.gov/vote, where you can also get a sneak peek at your ballot.
If the print seems smaller this year once you step to the voting booth, it's not a problem with your eyeglass prescription. Ballots need to be on one sheet, in heavy stock, to fit into the tabulating machine. The more races there are, the smaller the print gets, front and back.
Still, there are charms to voting in person, no matter the wait or the thermostat in the school gymnasium set to melt zinc.
Louise Travis of Northville is 85. She's never missed a vote and she's never voted absentee.
"I love the whole experience," she says. "I love talking to the workers and the people standing in line."
Travis, who leans left politically, took a call Thursday morning from a conservative friend who was just sprung from the hospital after gall bladder surgery.
They usually drive to the polling place together in Travis' white Lincoln MKZ. "I won't be able to vote with you this year," she said. "Just promise me you'll vote Republican."
"I wish you well," Travis said, "but no way."
Of course, it's actually not too late for the friend to get an absentee ballot — but if she finds that out, it won't be from Travis.