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Genesee County clerk says Michigan should drop May vote

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

After another light voter turnout in the May election, the Genesee County clerk says it’s time to consolidate future elections to August and November.

There were elections May 8 in 66 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Voters were mostly asked to decide school millages and bond requests.

Clerk John Gleason says the May election in Genesee County drew less than 10%, and in some cases much less.

“Westwood Heights just had a question before their voters. Five percent turnout,” says Gleason. On the millage renewal that passed 143 to 111, “95% of citizens who will get a tax bill didn’t vote.”

Gleason says doing away with May elections would reduce local election expenses by a third and encourage more residents to vote in elections that affect their wallets. 

Cindy Shields is the Davison Township cerk. She says the November and August election dates easily pull in more voters. Shields says moving the small number of issues appearing on the May ballot to one of the other election dates should not present a problem.

“I don’t think you’d see a whole lot of differences in the numbers (of voters),” says Shields, though she concedes it would make the November or August ballots slightly longer.

There is precedent for consolidating Michigan’s election calendar.

A few years ago, the legislature did away with the February election.  

And there may be interest in bringing an end to the May vote.

“Secretary (Ruth) Johnson has supported election consolidation efforts in the past, including the elimination of the village-only election date and the February date for local elections,” says Fred Woodhams, who is a spokesman for the Secretary of State.  

But Woodhams says Johnson would like to see the details of a proposal before she would decide to support or oppose it.

County Clerk John Gleason, a former state lawmaker from Genesee County, says he’s hoping to convince current lawmakers to address the issue.    

But in the meantime, Gleason says it’s a waste to print up tens of thousands of ballots that will never be used.

“The landfills are going to be receiving a lot of ballots here in a few days from this May election again,” says Gleason.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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