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Absentee ballot processing might not get any faster, Midland city clerk says

Tiffany Tertipes

Watching the numbers tick up has been slower the last two election cycles thanks to absentee voting. And that method of voting has been growing more popular.

But it probably isn't possible to get results back faster, said Midland City Clerk Lacey Todd. She said in 2020, her county bought a high-speed tabulator for absentee ballots. It took over 24 hours to process them all. In 2022, she said they bought another one.

While the extra machine did help, she said she can’t imagine getting the job done any faster.

“The more experience clerks have with this the more they'll figure out what works for them. And also being able to temper expectations," Todd said. "I can’t imagine having any more precincts than I already have and trying to get results out any quicker.”

While more ballot processing machines can help, staffing can be just as important.

Todd said she hasn’t had any problems getting people to work. Processing absentee ballots isn’t any more difficult than normal ballots, but she said they take an extra five minutes to count.

Multiply five by the number of ballots Midland received—which is about 9,000—and it’s a lot of minutes.

"We’ve always had a number of people that are interested in working, and whenever we tell people we need more help they seem to step up into those roles," Todd said.

Todd doesn’t know whether Michigan’s new early voting rules will have an impact on processing speed, she said. They’ll just have to wait and see.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.