Op-ed: How do we get our voices heard in our community?

DETROIT, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES - 2022/11/08: Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Detroit. Americans made their ways to the polls on Tuesday, November 8 to vote in the heated midterm elections. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Sharon McNeil

October 5, 2023

Michigan resident Sharon McNeil lays out what to expect ahead of the 2024 election and shares information about how to participate in the democratic process.

This op-ed was first published in the Monroe News.

Our vote is our voice. If we want to be heard, we must vote. We raise our concerns primarily through our elected officials to enact policy solutions. Voters elect people into office to be public servants bound by an oath to uphold the Constitution and duties of office.

I spoke with Monroe City Clerk and Treasurer Michelle LaVoy to understand more of the voting process and her work. Serving 10 years in office, she said she takes elections and her oath very seriously. As city clerk and treasurer, she expressed confidence in the election process in all its complexities. In a time of election volatility, LaVoy and her team are well trained and pro-active. They have enacted a comprehensive plan to ensure election security. Her hope is that more people will register to vote and go to the polls or vote by mail.

Voting in the city of Monroe and around the country is not robust. In the city of Monroe, a little over half (58%) voted in the 2020 presidential election which was more than in previous years. Voter participation in Monroe in 2022 state elections was 44%. Local election turnout was far lower with voting percentages in the teens.

In the last state election, Michiganders passed proposals to ensure that our elections will be more accessible, more secure and safe for all eligible voters. Michigan voters also passed changes to the limits to terms in office.

Here is what will become available to Michigan voters in the November 2023 election – with more to come in 2024.

In 2023, all eligible voters can receive a permanent absentee ballot in the mail after submitting a single, signed application requesting a permanent absentee ballot.

This gives you time to look thoroughly over your ballot and research each of the candidates, proposals or millages. It gives you time to submit your ballot through the mail and avoid poll lines.

How would a voter sign up to receive a permanent absentee ballot? Go to your local clerk’s office and fill out an application; request an application by mail or go online. Or make a check mark on the top right box for a permanent ballot, on the application, if you already received one in the mail.

What happens if you move? If you join the permanent mail ballot list and then move within the state of Michigan and update your voter registration address, you will remain included on the list and will receive your ballot.

However, if you move outside of the state or do not update your registration address you will be removed from the permanent ballot list and will not receive an absentee ballot.

What if you just go away for the winter or you’re at school? As with all absentee ballots, you can choose to have your ballot mailed to an address other than your registration address.

Voters can also remove themselves from a ballot list, at any time by submitting a signed request for removal.

A voter will be automatically removed from receiving a permanent ballot for these reasons: You relocate to another state without updating your voter registration address; you have not cast a ballot for six consecutive years; you are no longer eligible to vote, as in the case of a prison sentence.

What can we expect for the 2024 election? There will be nine days of early voting, one additional drop box in the city of Monroe, free return postage for mail-in ballots and extended time for overseas military to return ballots, if postmarked by Election Day.

Many experienced clerks have left the profession. However, LaVoy and other clerks stand undeterred in their duties to keep the elections safe, secure and accessible to all eligible voters.

Get out there and vote! Not registered, don’t know? Go to www.vote411.org.

For absentee ballot application: mvic.sos.state.mi.us/AVApplication/Index

More info: www.michiganvoting.org

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