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Absentee ballot requests are up from 2018 in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Portage

A person wearing a long sleeve pink shirt inserts an absentee ballot into a white drop box outside Kalamazoo City Hall
Leona Larson
/
WMUK
A voter submits an absentee ballot for the August 2022 primary election outside Kalamazoo City Hall. Absent voter ballots for the November 2022 general election began going out yesterday.

Demand for absent voter ballots in three Southwest Michigan cities so far isn’t as high for the November midterm election as it was for the general election in 2020. But Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Portage say AV ballot requests have still increased since 2018.

Last week, Michigan clerks began mailing absentee ballots for the November 8th election. Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling said he sent 8,000 ballots out in that first round.

Borling said that’s about half the number of absentee ballots the city mailed in the first round for the November 2020 election. He said voters may be more willing to vote in person in this phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, or they may simply be less interested in this election.

“The thing we don't know is, are these trends? Are they going to continue? Are they onetime anomalies based on the specific circumstances of the moment? It's going to take a little while to get enough data points to see exactly where the data is headed,” Borling said.

Though requests are down from two years ago, Borling said the city’s gotten more absentee ballot requests than it did in for the last midterm election. Portage and Battle Creek have seen similar trends.

Portage clerk Erica Eklov attributed the rise to both the pandemic and new laws giving Michiganders easier access to absentee voting. Eklov added that more people than ever have signed up for permanent absentee voting in Portage.

“Our list has quadrupled, where we're sending 16,000-some absentee voter applications before every election and they can choose whether they want to vote absentee or go to the precinct. So I don't ever see us returning to pre-November 2018 levels,” she said.