Do you want to vote in the upcoming general elections ahead of Nov. 3? Did you forget to register to vote? Do you want to do all these things while enjoying free parking? Then go to the Hannah Community Center today.
For the first time ever, the City of East Lansing opened a satellite City Clerk’s office dedicated to serving election-related issues, including registering voters, issuing absentee ballots, providing voters a place to complete absentee ballots, and collecting completed ballots.
The Hannah Center is a “one-stop shop” for all voting-related issues, where the process is “easy peasy,” said Marie Wicks, the former City Clerk who is currently charged with running the Clerk’s office at the Hannah Center.
This means that even someone who has not registered to vote can show up at the Hannah Center today and leave having voted in the election. The satellite Clerk’s office is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and will be open on the weekend before the election, on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The satellite location opened on Oct. 5, and Wicks is eager to see more people.
“A One-Stop Shop”
Speaking to ELi on Sunday, Wicks encouraged people to visit the Hannah Center instead of the City Clerk’s main office in City Hall to address all their voting-related issues.
In the lead-up to the election, the City Clerk’s office must continue its normal day-to-day operations while taking on additional behind-the-scenes work to prepare for the election like testing ballot scanners. In contrast, the Hannah Center satellite office is only handling voting.
Wicks said that it takes only about 10 minutes to register to vote and to obtain an absentee ballot. All ballots cast before Nov. 3, even if completed in person, are considered absentee ballots in Michigan.
Starting Oct. 20, residents can no longer register to vote online and must do so in person. Wicks advises would-be voters that they can register to vote without an ID if they bring proof of residency, which must include the applicant’s name and current address. Some examples are a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document. All these can all be in electronic form. These individuals will also need to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
For registered voters, it will take less than 5 minutes to pick up an absentee ballot. You should bring a photo ID that has your name, but Wicks explained that a student ID or out-of-state driver’s license is fine so long as it is not expired. The ID is not being used to verify your address, only your identity.
Once you have your absentee ballot, you can either fill it out at the Hannah Center and submit it in the secure, locked ballot box there. The Hannah Center is equipped with privacy stands for those wishing to complete their ballots the same day. Seating options are also available.
You can also bring your ballot home to complete it. If you bring your ballot home, remember to return it to one of the drop boxes around East Lansing. Ballots can also be mailed, but since the election is only two weeks away, Wicks sees the drop boxes as a safer bet. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 to be counted in the election.
After your ballot is submitted, you can track if it has been received at www.mi.gov/vote.
For a real look at what to expect at the Hannah Center, you can watch this video recorded by Thasin Sardar, initially made for the Islamic Center, in which Fardowsa Omar shows how she voted.
The Hannah Center satellite office has a number of protocols in place to mitigate the risk of Covid-19. All poll workers are masked, and masks are available for those who need them.
Plexiglass is in place to separate election workers and voters. Every booth, chair, and table is wiped down after every use. Hand sanitizer is available at the door, and pens are single-use only.
The Behind the Scenes Work
Wicks addressed some of the common concerns that people voting absentee have voiced. Yes, your ballot will still be counted if you forget to put your absentee ballot in its secrecy sleeve.
For those concerned about their signature, your signature should match the signature that you have on record with the Secretary of State, which is on your driver’s license. Wicks said that the verification does allow for some variation, such as signing “M. Wicks” instead of “Marie Wicks” so long as the handwriting matches.
If the signatures do not match or some other issue has arisen, the City Clerk’s office will contact you within 48 hours.
Administering the polling sites, including the Hannah Center, is also a bi-partisan effort. A registered Democrat and a registered Republican together empty the ballot box into an approved bag. The bag is then sealed and transported to the Clerk’s office. There, the bag is opened and each ballot is marked received. The ballots are organized by precinct and put into a vault.
The ballots remain there until the day before the election, when they are pre-processed for counting. The absentee ballots will then be counted, using high-speed scanners, beginning at 7 a.m. on Nov. 3 when the polls open.
Wicks believes that the democratic institutions that uphold and support elections are alive and well in East Lansing. She points to the satellite Clerk’s office as proof.
In 2018, Michigan voters supported a proposal that amended the state constitution to allow for straight-ticket voting and no-reason absentee voting.
Wicks emphasized that the citizens of Michigan put the measure on the ballot and a majority voted to support it. According to Wicks, the measure “increased access to the ballot” by making it easier for people to vote, including students.
Now that access to voting has been made easier, the satellite office is here to accommodate the increasing number of voters.
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