SHIAWASSEE COUNTY CLERK CAROLINE WILSON is shown behind a stack of boxes containing ballots for the upcoming March 10 Presidential Primary. Wilson was elected as clerk in November 2016 and has been in office since January 2017. She remains active in the area, volunteering during the Shiawassee River clean up last fall and in other events. She is responsible for all election activities in the county – a committed position of service.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
With the March 10 Presidential Primary just over a month away, it is time to address what this primary entails for Shiawassee County voters. First, it is a closed presidential primary and not under the constraint of the legislature’s elimination of straight ticket voting, as some have questioned. In short, this primary means that a voter is required to chose one of three available ballots – whether at the time of the polls or through absentee voting. The three ballots available are for the Democratic Party Presidential Primary, the Republican Party Presidential Primary or the Proposal Only Primary – where a voter can decide to vote only on proposals happening within their district.
As for proposals, there are five happening in Shiawassee County. The city of Durand has a millage to subsidize fire and ambulance services, asking voters if the city should collect 1.65 mills for a period of 10 fiscal years – roughly $104,647 in the first year, if approved.
The city of Owosso has a bond proposal for street improvements and is asking voters if the city should borrow a principal sum of $10,000,000 over a 20 year period to go toward further paving, repaving, reconstruction and needed improvements on streets, sidewalks and related parking areas. The estimated millage to be levied in 2021 would be at a bit over 2.56 mills.
New Haven Township is asking to levy up to 1/3 of a mill on an ad valorem (assessed value of an item/service) basis, for a term of four years to provide funding to the Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency (SATA) so township residents can utilize the service at a reduced charge.
Chesaning Union Schools has a sinking fund millage proposal authorizing the school board to “levy not to exceed .75 mills for a period of five years from 2020 to 2024 for construction and repair work on school buildings, including technology upgrades and more. This is the same sinking fund millage that failed last August.
The last proposal is a millage proposal for the Ingham Immediate School District affecting some residents in Woodhull Township. This proposal requests an increase by .2438 mills for 20 years for services for some disabled students in the southwest quadrant of the county.
To read more on these ballots, visit www.shiawassee.net and look for election information.
Some voters are asking why they are limited to one political party and the answer falls under Michigan Election Law (www.Michigan.gov). Regarding absentee voter ballots, election staff must know which ballot to mail based on a voter’s Absent Voter Ballot Application – to send out the correct ballot for the election. When at the polls, it is important to remember election staff are following the law and do not have control over any part of the election process, so questioning them on the political party restriction is pointless.
Regarding the presidential selection on the ballots, the Democratic Party Presidential Primary ballot will have numerous candidates listed, though several have already dropped out, and this is because the ballots were printed to meet an established deadline. Dem candidates remaining in the race as of Wednesday, Jan. 5 are (alphabetically) Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. On the Republican side and still in the race are Donald Trump, Joe Walsh and William F. Weld. It is also important to remember that a voter is not required to vote for the same party in the November primary based on how they voted in the March primary.
In a discussion with Shiawassee County Clerk Caroline Wilson on Tuesday, Feb. 4, she shared that the “uncertainty” of the election for everyone in this state rides on absentee voter turn out. As one example, she mentioned that the city of Corunna has been promoting absentee voting in the hope of seeing less people in lines on election day and have found that numbers have doubled, so far. Wilson also explained that the clerk’s office ordered more ballots, compared to 2016, to accommodate a possible increase due to absentee voter turn out. The cost of these ballots and also extra hours for staffing is a Federal expense and does not fall on the county.
Wilson also explained that the mandate to have same day registration at the polls requires extra staffing, leading to increased spending – particularly considering that numerous election officials actually begin the day ahead of time and work long hours. “Elections are expensive,” she shared, mentioning that one absentee vote costs 70 cents. For those expecting an absentee vote in the mail, note that the envelopes are now smaller. There are several security measures involved in the process, including verifying signatures.
Reflecting on 2020, Wilson said, “There is a lot of emotion behind this election. I think we will have a higher turn out.” She encouraged voters to carefully research who and what they are voting for this year, via legitimate news sources. “I believe voting is our privilege,” Wilson shared.