ST. JOSEPH — Although people are not mandated to wear a face covering when voting in person at polling places, election workers hope they do.
But for anyone who is medically unable to wear a mask, the city of St. Joseph will offer curbside voting at all precincts for the Aug. 4 primary election.
“It takes a lot of time for our poll workers, but it’s an alternative to not wearing a mask,” City Clerk Denise Westfall said.
She said anyone who needs to vote curbside because they cannot medically wear a face mask needs to first call the clerk’s office at 983-6325.
Two poll workers will come outside to get the voter’s identification information and give them a ballot. Then the poll workers will wait for the ballot to be completed, then placed in the outdoor drop box.
Because the curbside voting is time-consuming for the election workers, voters are encouraged to wear a face covering and vote inside while practicing social distancing, Westfall said.
“We’re not encouraging the curbside voting, but it is an alternative for voters who cannot wear a mask,” she said.
At a meeting earlier this week, Mayor Mike Garey commended the clerk’s office and said, “We will do everything we can to encourage people to vote.”
Westfall said it’s not too late for people to request an absent voter ballot. Voters can go online to vote.michigan.gov /AVApplication, and fill out the application electronically with information from their driver’s license. Once submitted, the form goes directly to clerks’ offices and a ballot is sent right out. Friday is the last day that ballots can be sent out by mail.
Clerk’s offices throughout Michigan are required to be open the Saturday or Sunday before an election.
Westfall said her office at St. Joseph City Hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday for people to register to vote or pick up a ballot. The ballot can be taken home, then returned to the drop box outside city hall by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Besides the drop box in the front vestibule, St. Joseph City Hall has a new drop box outside the Broad Street doors.
On Monday, City Hall will be open until 4 p.m. for people to request a ballot, which then would need to be completed onsite. On Tuesday, City Hall will be open for the election only, with no other business being conducted.
Westfall said her office has issued about 2,000 absentee ballots for the primary, compared to 699 for the primary election four years ago, and has added 1,000 people to the permanent absentee voter list.
She said that although some of the increase in absentee voting can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, “I think it’s an overall new trend.”
“We are very pleased with the number of people requesting an AV ballot. The more people who vote, the better,” Westfall said.
Although it takes longer to count absentee votes because the ballots are not put through the automatic tabulator, Westfall said her office has doubled the number of poll workers counting absentee ballots, so she does not anticipate a problem.