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County clerks tackle new primary election voting challenges amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 5:39 AM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 12:28:19-04

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Today is Primary Election Day in Michigan, a day local clerks take months to prepare for, to make sure voting goes smoothly.

COVID-19 and absentee voting are two factors clerks say are causing or have caused a shift in voter behavior this primary and officials approach to polling location safety.

"These were made available to all the Secretary of State's offices for all the local clerks. You can see we have masks, hand sanitizer, all kinds of gloves here, and surface sanitizer, as well as these face shields for election workers to use," said Fred Miller, Macomb County clerk.

Beyond the tabulator, beyond the booth and the ballot, Macomb County clerk Fred Miller says preparing for this year's primary election takes on a whole new set of standards in every polling location across the state, equipped with personal protective equipment or PPE.

"We utilize the federal CARES Act money and the state coordinated it and it kind of filtered down to the local clerks," Miller said.

Miller says voting booths at polling places may be more physically distant. But local clerks believe COVID-19 may have been, in part, a motivator for people to vote absentee.

"In just a week out, we saw that there was already 2/3 more people, voters requesting absentee ballots then the total number of people who participated in our primary four years ago," said Miller.

"It's requested that if you're going to go vote in-person that you wear a mask," said Oakland County clerk Lisa Brown. "It's not required because you are exercising your right to vote, but of course, it's encouraged and hope that people do that and respect social distancing and all those things. That we can be safe. We saw what happened in some other states with the long lines and people then testing positive after that and we don't want that to happen in Michigan."

If you do vote in-person, Oakland County clerk Lisa Brown asks that you exercise patience.

"This is very stressful times for clerks. Wanting everything to go smoothly. And there are very long days," said Brown. "So be kind to you local clerks. There's a lot that goes into and clerks are dedicated to ensuring the democratic process works properly."

Masks are not required to be worn in the voting location, but you're asked to do so.

If you have not turned in your absentee ballot and still plan to do so, you must turn it in to your city or township clerk by 8 p.m.

For a list of drop box locations, click here.

Do not mail it.

You can also register to vote today.