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Muskegon voters adding their names to city's permanent absentee list

No reason absentee voting in Michigan should result in shorter lines at precincts around the state and a spike in requests for absentee ballots.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — All eyes will be on the presidential primary in New Hampshire Tuesday where Democratic candidates are going after the state's 24 delegates. Then the attention turns to Nevada and South Carolina.

Michigan's primary takes center stage Mar. 10, and this year more residents are expected to vote by absentee ballot. A statewide ballot proposal in Michigan now allows voters to request an absentee ballot without providing a reason for the request.

"So you can just say I want an absentee ballot," said City of Muskegon Clerk Ann Meisch. Whereas before, voters needed to have a reason to request one, such as living abroad. 

No-reason absentee voting in Michigan should results in shorter lines at precincts and a possible increase in voter turnout.

Meisch says she's asking voters in her city to join a permanent absentee voter list. A link to join the list was posted on the city's website in mid-January. Since then 1,200 voters in the city of Muskegon have become permanent absentee voters. 

"Click 'yes I'm interested' and put your name and address and we'll mail you an application for every single election going forward," Meisch said.

The outgoing mail from the clerk's office was so full one day last month staff needed a hand truck to move the tall stack of mail bins stuffed with absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots provide a convenient method for casting a ballot instead of waiting in lines, and voting absentee eliminates any sense of being rushed that some voters may experience when voting in person.

Absentee ballots also eliminate any unexpected conflicts that can prevent even well-intentioned voters from participating on election day.

"You expect you're going to be able to vote at the end of the day after work— something comes up, the weather is bad," Meisch said.

Contrary to some myths, Meisch says voting by absentee ballot does not delay the tabulation of results because precinct workers can begin tabulating ballots as soon as polls open.

Registered voters can request an absentee ballot up until the Friday before the election or in person at your city or township clerk's office until 4 p.m the day prior to the election. 

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