New program makes voting easier for college students

YOUNG VOTERS: New program allows college students who are unable to return home an opportunity to vote. (Courtesy photo)
YOUNG VOTERS: New program allows college students who are unable to return home an opportunity to vote. (Courtesy photo)

MICHIGAN — College students across Michigan who are temporarily living away from their permanent residence will have an easier way to vote in November.

County clerks from across Michigan have joined together to initiate a county clerk deputization program to ensure that all eligible voters can vote without traveling to their hometown by visiting the nearest participating county clerk’s office by Nov. 3.

Under current law, voters who registered to vote by mail and will vote for their first time on Nov. 6, must vote in-person and are not allowed to vote by absentee ballot. The county clerk deputization program allows those voters to show photo identification to any participating county clerk and be eligible to vote by absentee ballot in November.

“It becomes a big issue on election years for college students to vote,” said Osceola County clerk Karen Bluhm. “This allows them to go to the county clerk’s office closest to them, identify themselves, and that clerk will send notification to the clerk in their hometown, and they will issue an absentee ballot.”

Bluhm joined 74 other county clerks across the state of Michigan, including Mecosta County clerk Marcee Purcell and Lake County clerk Shelly Myers to participate in the program to help voters across the state.

“If a Ferris student wants to vote, they can stop in Marcee (Purcell)’s office or my office and give us their identification,” Bluhm said.

In order to participate in the program, clerks had to fill out paper work stating they would allow other clerks to verify the identification of voters in their county. Only nine clerks in the state do not participate in the program.

The program was designed for college students who registered to vote at their parent’s address, but temporarily live away from home, though others in a similar situation also may take advantage of the program.

Voters must have registered to vote by Oct. 9 to participate. The new program only benefits newly-registered voters. After an individual has voted once, current law does not require them to vote in person.

For newly registered voters who need to request an absentee ballot by mail for the upcoming election, they can contact the Osceola County clerk’s office at (231) 832-3261 or Mecosta County clerk’s office at (231) 592-0783 by 2 p.m. on Nov. 3. An absentee ballot will be sent to their temporary residence.