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By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

The 2020 Election May Be Remembered as The Year of The Absentee Ballot

 

September 3, 2020

Inkster City Clerk Felicia Rutledge wants voters to be confident their vote cast by absentee ballot will count in the 2020 election.

As Election Day, November 3, 2020, draws near, COVID-19 continues to ravage the nation. As a safety precaution, many voters nationwide are opting to vote by mail, also known as absentee voting, rather than stand in line or enter a crowed polling place to cast their vote. But is absentee voting safe and secure? Yes, says Inkster City Clerk Felicia Rutledge.

"The Board of Canvassers, they certify the election, they make sure the numbers are correct," she says. "There are so many checks and balances there, that it's extremely hard if you have turned in your ballot, for it not to be counted."

According to the Heritage Foundation, which maintains an online data base of election fraud, there have been just over 1,200 cases of voter fraud over the past 20 years. Of those, 204 cases involved fraudulent use of absentee ballots. Mathematically, that comes to about 10 cases of mail-in ballot fraud per year, spread out among 50 states. That's pretty minimal.

Rutledge has served as Inkster City Clerk since October 2012. She says her office has already received 5,000 absentee ballot applications this year and expects to receive more as Election Day nears. "I think a lot of this is going to be a higher number due to the COVID-19 pandemic," she says. "I'm definitely anticipating higher numbers; I'm talking about double and triple, to be honest."

Over in Westland, City Clerk Richard LeBlanc says of the city's 64,200 registered voters, approximately 18,300 are considered permanent absentee voters. "Overall, I estimate 25,000 voters will request an AV (absentee voter) ballot," says LeBlanc.

Rutledge wants voters to be aware that if they want to vote y absentee ballot, they must submit an application for every election. In May, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office sent applications for absentee ballots to all 7.7 million registered voters in the state in an effort to make the voting process safer during the pandemic. That form allowed voters to choose to receive an absentee ballot for both elections held in August and November of this year only.

Receiving an absentee ballot is one step of the process, but it is just as important to make sure your ballot is received at the clerk's office in a timely manner. Both Rutledge and LeBlanc encourage voters to use their city's ballot drop boxes or deliver ballots by hand to the city clerk's office-and to do it early. "Unless they are truly undecided, there is no advantage to waiting until the days prior to an election to cast an absentee vote," says LeBlanc. "And since the mail service has been irregular for some people, consider hand-delivering your ballot to city hall well ahead of Election Day."

Westland City Clerk Richard LeBlanc urges voters to return their absentee ballots to their city's ballot drop box early.

In Inkster, Rutledge says her office will be open on October 31 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to issue absentee ballot applications and to receive absentee ballots. She adds that the city needs a few more poll workers for Election Day to serve on a stand-by list. Call 313-563-9770 to find out more. In Westland, LeBlanc says poll workers are needed and can find an application and instructions for completing it at http://www.cityofwestland.com/Home/ShowDocument?id=13318.

Along with Rutledge, LeBlanc assures voters that voting by absentee ballot is safe and accurate. "Your ballot will be secure, and your Election Officials thank you for choosing to vote by mail," he says.

For further information on the election process, please contact your local city clerk's office. Voters can also find important information and join the permanent absentee voter list at http://www.Michigan.gov/Vote. When a voter is placed on the permanent absentee voter list, they will automatically receive an application for an absentee ballot prior to each election, which must be filled out and returned.

 

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