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Opinion | How Oakland County is working together to make early voting work

As a lifelong resident of Michigan and director of elections for Oakland County, Michigan’s second most populous county, I am excited about the opportunity that a true early voting system offers to Michigan voters. l am confident that jurisdictions can work together to ensure that early voting is as effective and efficient as possible.

Joe Rozell
Joe Rozell is director of elections for Oakland County. (Courtesy photo)

In 2022, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment, Proposal 2, to make voting more accessible for Michigan voters. A key piece of Prop 2 is the creation of a minimum of nine days of early voting for all statewide and federal elections. 

This is a huge step forward in terms of accessibility because it will allow voters to vote — just like they would on Election Day —by coming to an early voting site, completing their ballot and then putting it into a tabulator. It’s good for voters, yet it’s a large undertaking for local election officials who need to create and implement an early voting process as well as train and dedicate staff to the effort.  

Good thing we’re not in this alone!

In Oakland County, under County Clerk/Register of Deeds Lisa Brown’s leadership, we have a history of partnering on election administration. We were the first in the state to set up combined absent voter counting boards for our municipalities, paving the way for other counties. 

Early voting offers another such opportunity for partnership. Earlier this year, we sent a survey to all the local clerks in Oakland County to see if they intended to partner with another municipality or would like to partner with the county to offer early voting. As of now, 48 out of our 52 municipalities have agreed to partner with the county to offer early voting. We envision having 19 early voting sites set around Oakland County. Every resident of the county will be able to vote at a designated early voting site in or near their municipality, and there will be one county-wide site where all county residents of municipalities that partner with the County can vote early. Ultimately our goal in Oakland County is to offer early voting for every election, including local elections.

County-wide collaboration allows us to be innovative in how we administer this new process. Our local clerks are excited about the opportunity to offer early voting to voters, to deepen partnerships with neighboring communities, and share both resources and expertise. We also have a lot to learn from the dozens of other states that have been offering early voting for years. 

And I know we’re not alone in our efforts. Election administrators across the state are talking with each other and collaborating on a whole new level to figure out how to best serve their voters. It’s a very exciting time to work on elections in Michigan. 

Early voting is a win-win for both election officials and voters. For election officials it will disperse the intense workload of Election Day over a longer, more manageable period. For voters, it provides more opportunities for busy, hardworking Michiganders to cast their vote in person and have the satisfaction of seeing their ballot go into the tabulator. Early voting is a great step towards creating a voting system that works for everyone, and Clerk Brown and I are so excited about what we’re working to build in Oakland County.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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