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Posted on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

Washtenaw County joins statewide effort to improve absentee ballot access for first-time voters

By Amy Biolchini

The Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office is working with 78 other Michigan counties across Michigan to make sure there are no barriers for first-time voters - especially college students -- to cast their ballots.

College students are advised to register to vote at their primary address. The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 9.

As many college students may not travel to their home counties to vote in the Nov. 6 general election, they may choose to vote absentee, said Ed Golembiewski, director of elections for Washtenaw County.


Angela Cesere |

However, Michigan law states that a person who registers to vote using a mail-in form, or through an unofficial voter registration drive, cannot vote with an absentee ballot in their first election.

The law is meant to prevent voter fraud by requiring the identity of a first-time voter to be checked in person at the polls -- meaning some college students who registered to vote with a mail-in form for the November election could be denied their request to receive an absentee ballot, Golembiewski said.

Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum has joined clerks in other Michigan counties to streamline the process and make sure first-time voters who did not register to vote in person are able to cast their ballot.

First-time voters in the Ann Arbor area can present their identification and submit an application for an absentee ballot at the Washtenaw County Clerk’s office at 200 N. Main St. in downtown Ann Arbor.

With valid identification, the ballot application will be forwarded to the county clerk where the individual resides to confirm the voter’s residency.

Voters will then receive their official ballot in the mail -- an event that would not have been possible had Michigan clerks not decided to work together, Golembiewski said.

Requests for absentee ballots from voters that fit this description must be received by county clerks by 2 p.m. Nov. 3.

The program is a result of an agreement of the Michigan Association of County Clerks. Many Michigan clerks participated in the program in the 2008 general election, Golembiewski said.

Though he said he's unsure of how many people will take advantage of the opportunity, Golembiewski said it was important that it be offered.

“The option is there,” Golembiewski said. “It’s a situation that alleviates the problem.”

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 6:45 a.m.

Funny article - in light of my own experience when I called about getting an absentee ballot. 1. After telling the County Clerk woman who answered the phone I was planning to get an absentee ballot, I asked if there was anything I should know before I made the trip to city hall. Answer: "I don't think so, what was it you wanted to know?" - it was like she hadn't heard my question at all. 2. I then "suggested" it might be good to know what entrance I should use to get an absentee ballot. Answer: "You can use either entrance, there are two." Huh??! I KNOW there are two entrances!! This is a NEW city hall building - WHICH ONE should I use?! Really lame and pathetic, almost like calling our new "County 911" number. Oh, and this woman at the clerk's office never did respond to my question about what proper identification I should bring. Truly ridiculous.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

@yohan: speaking of being rude and confused -- just how is anyone who doesn't WORK THERE to know WHICH entrance is the best to use THIS election year?? The article centers on the "efforts" of the county clerk's office to help new voters - who are by definition NEW TO the procedures. So how is it that you suddenly conclude that anyone NEW TO the situation is "rude and confused" when they say the claimed "improvement" is a farce?


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 10:09 a.m.

Speaking of being rude and confused ... The county clerk is not located in the new city hall. The city clerk is located in the old city hall. The two entrances are on opposite ends of the same hallway. It really doesn't matter. Extremely ridiculous


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

It's sad that this is even an issue. Voter fraud of the kind mentioned in this article is virtually unheard of. America, land of Democracy. Well, it used to be, when everyone was allowed to vote. Thanks soldiers for fighting for our right to vote, and thanks Republican secretaries of state and governors for taking it away.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.