The majority of voters are going to cast their ballots at some point today, but in the clerk's office at city hall, Alpena residents have been filling out absentee ballots since early September.
Alpena City Clerk/Treasurer Karen Hebert said 1,097 absentee ballots were distributed for the general election, which is down 1 percent from the 2008 presidential election. Hebert said she thinks the decline in absentee ballot requests is attributed to the local population shrinking. She said there also has been a drop in the number of registered voters in the city in 2012. Hebert said in 2008 there were 8,575 and today there are 8,374. She said her office has been busy with people coming in and voting.
"We have been busy. We have had to have the absentee ballots available 40 days before the election," Hebert said. "Once they are filled out the voter seals them and they are stored in the city's vault. Tuesday the counting board will come in and count the ballots. They will remain sequestered until everything is counted and verified."
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Robert Sperry fills out an absentee ballot on Monday at the Alpena City Clerk’s Office. Clerk Karen Hebert said 1,097 absentee ballots were issued, which equates to 13 percent of the overall voters in the city.
Because so many important issues are on the ballot, Hebert said it is taking voters longer than normal to fill out the entire ballot. She said she also expects a large percentage of the registered voters to take part in today's election. She said because of the expected numbers and the length of the ballot, measures were taken to provide more help during the voting process.
"We are going to have extra voting booths, an extra worker for each precinct and we have had extra training and review," Hebert said. "I do think there will be some long lines no matter what, just because of how long the ballot is. I think it takes about 10 minutes on average for someone to read and fill it out."
In the 2004 presidential election 61 percent of registered voters voted and in 2008 it dipped to 60 percent. Hebert shared a few tips which if used might help the line move more smoothly and be sure the ballot is filled out correctly.
"You don't have to vote a straight party ticket on this like you had to for the primary election. You can cross party lines if you choose," Hebert said. "Be sure you turn the ballot over, because there are two sides on it. Some people forget to do it. If you're unsure about something or choose not to vote on something, that is OK. What you do vote on will still count. Only an empty ballot will not count. Remember there are no cell phones or cameras allowed while you're in the voting booth and you may want to bring a picture ID with you."
Polls will be opened from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. today.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.