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Township Clerk Tests Voting Equipment; Says Coronavirus May Have Increased Absentee Voting

Maisy Nielsen
Voting booths at the Meridian Township Municipal Building on March 9. Any registered voter could participate in Early Voting until 4 p.m. on March 9, due to the passing of Proposal 3 in 2018.

Meridian Township began preparing 60 days ago for the March 10 Michigan Primary. The clerk and a team made up of about 150 people have been working to ensure a smooth voting process for the township’s voters.

The ballot for the Primary will include seven proposals for Meridian Township as well the opportunity to nominate the Democratic Presidential Nominee.

Equipment accuracy test

Township Clerk Brett Dreyfus said he and his staff conducted an accuracy test on March 8 to conclude this election cycle’s preparation. 

The equipment for all 19 precincts in Meridian Township have been thoroughly tested within the past weeks, but this specific test allowed residents to see how the township tested the equipment. 

A specific tabulator was selected and random tests were applied to simulate possible outcomes for the ballot.

Credit Maisy Nielsen
The voting equipment in the Town Hall room at the Municipal Building that will be used in the March 10 Primary by those living in Precinct 6.

“The test is meant to show how we test all of our equipment . . . It shows the public how we do our testing,” Dreyfus said about Meridian Township’s accuracy test for the Michigan Primary. “We went through about 180 different ballot types, and it (the test) covers every possible series of choices to make sure the logic works in every possible sequence. The test went through and it passed so we’re good to go.” 

Specific election prep leading up to the day

Dreyfus and his election team have been preparing for the Primary by performing specific election tasks, such as reviewing the ballot’s contents, including the language that may be used on the ballot. 

The team is also responsible for managing voting registration and the absentee ballot list and informing constituents of ballot proposals through press releases.

Dreyfus added 25 new election workers for the Primary, to round the team up to 150 and is always looking to add more. Recruitment of these election workers is also prioritized when it comes to election preparation.

Credit Maisy Nielsen
The materials that will be delivered to all 19 polling locations in Meridian Township. These include ballots and their instructions.

“We always have citizens who step up to the plate,” Dreyfus said. We always run an election with a full crew. I try to reach people in unorthodox ways because then we’ll pick people that normally might not (be) reach(ed) out to, . . . My goal as clerk is to always try to hit a broad constituency.” 

Absentee ballots on the rise

Dreyfus has worked in Meridian Township since 1999; serving on the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and as a trustee on the Township Board before becoming the Township Clerk. 

While working in these different positions over the years, he noticed residents started to shift with society, one that favored reforming the election process to accommodate as many voters as possible. 

He predicted the rise of absentee voting because “it was clear to me that our society was changing in just how we communicate and interact,” Dreyfus said. “People really don’t have the same time and inclination to want to go to a polling location, wait in line even for 15 minutes. People get impatient more . . . (they) would rather just be done with their voting as quickly as possible.” 

Widespread use of absentee voting began in 2018 after most restrictions to secure a ballot were lifted by the Michigan Absentee Ballot Law, allowing for every registered voter to apply for an absentee ballot. 

To accommodate the township residents’ growing interest in absentee voting, the Clerk’s office held extended hours this past week to help register new voters and accept applications for absentee ballots. 

The Clerk’s Office is also taking as manyhealth precautions to protect voters from any potential illnesses and outbreaks that may occur from voting in person. Recent news of the Coronavirus outbreak may also play a factor in the demand for absentee voting, said Dreyfus.

“I’m encouraging everybody to vote, even in an election that people may have different opinions about how they believe the system (should) run,” Dreyfus said about participation in the Michigan Primary. “Everybody’s voice counts and if it’s a close election . . . it could be down to single votes (that) matter.”

Polling locations around Meridian Township open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

This story is part of MI First Election. A collaboration between WKAR News and the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

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