OAKLAND COUNTY – County Executive David Coulter, along with Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David T. Woodward (D-Royal Oak) and Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Lisa Brown, announced today several steps the county is taking to ensure 2020 elections are safe and secure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"These elections are sure to draw unprecedented interest, not only because of the candidates and issues involved, but because of the challenges COVID-19 presents for conducting an election that is safe and fair," Coulter said. "That's why this Oakland Together 2020 Democracy Initiative is so important. Our goal is to ensure safe, healthy, secure elections with full participation by Oakland County residents."
Woodward formed the Oakland County Safe, Healthy, and Secure Election Advisory Council in June with Commissioner Nancy Quarles, local clerks and local democracy advocacy groups. Since its creation, the council has identified challenges and made recommendations to the Board of Commissioners to support local elections with safety measures during the pandemic. These measures aim to protect Oakland County voters and election workers while preserving the democratic process.
"Safe and secure elections are essential to our democracy," Woodward said. "We are doing everything we can and using every resource necessary to help our local communities hold safe and secure election during this pandemic. The Oakland Together 2020 Democracy Initiative is the largest effort in Michigan of its kind."
The council has focused on four key areas: easy and informed absentee voter participation, safe polling locations with full implementation of health protocols, trained new election workers and precautions for vulnerable workers, and adequate equipment to count ballots and promote confidence in elections.
"I am extremely proud of the work the council has done to help ensure Oakland County residents have the freedom and flexibility to vote in a way that makes them comfortable, while also protecting themselves and election workers," Commissioner Nancy Quarles (D-Southfield), chair of the advisory council, said.
The Board of Commissioners has adopted four resolutions to address these issues. They are:
- MR#20172, which urged all Oakland County residents to vote by mail to avoid COVID-19 exposure at polling locations. This was adopted by the Board on June 25.
- MR#20183, which created an interlocal agreement to facilitate local communities partnering with the county clerk to process and count absentee ballots. In accordance with PA 95 of 2020, Oakland County received requests for assistance from 20 local communities for the primary and 40 local communities for the general. This was adopted on June 4.
- MR#20241, which appropriated $500,000 to communicate about the safety of absentee voting and provide clear instructions to voters on the primary ballot. This was adopted on July 2.
- MR#20220, which appropriated funding for new voter tabulation equipment and purchasing a new virtual election worker training program so that all communities can train new workers remotely. This was adopted on July 2.
In addition, the advisory council has made two recommendations that will be considered by the Board at future meetings. They are:
- Prepaid postage for November absentee ballots to remove an additional barrier for residents who choose to vote by mail.
- A Protect Democracy Election Worker Recruitment and Retention Program, which support local clerks retain and recruit election workers during the pandemic by paying election works an additional $50.
"We see more spoiled ballots in the August primary elections than any other election," Brown said. "We want to ensure every citizen's vote counts, so we are reminding them to: Use a blue or black ink pen when filling in the box next to your choice; only vote for one party's candidates otherwise you will spoil your ballot and the entire partisan section won't count; also vote the non-partisan column, and check both sides of your ballot, voting the same party on both sides. When you return your absentee ballot, be sure to sign the outer envelope. It must be at your city or township clerk's office by 8 p.m. election day."
Joe Rozell, director of elections for Brown, served as vice chair of the Oakland County Safe, Healthy, and Secure Election Advisory Council. For more information about the Board of Commissioners, please visit www.oakgov.com/boc or call 248-858-0100.