Officials working hard to make Election Day go smoothly

REED CITY — Many folks believe Election Day begins and ends at the voting booth.

However, leading up to the Nov. 8 general election, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to make sure things go as smoothly as possible that evening when polls close.

Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm and her staff are in the midst of testing ballots and equipment in preparation for the big day.

It’s not as simple as just sending any marked ballot through the machine and waiting to see if it is accepted or rejected, Bluhm said.

“There are 40 different ballots for Osceola County, and there are 57 different ways each of those ballots can be filled out,” she said. “We test every scenario. Every style has to be checked and verified that the ballots are good. It not only tests the ballots, but the equipment and makes sure everything is in working order and it’s not going to exclude a ballot for a reason it shouldn’t.”

This time-intensive process isn’t something specially done for presidential or general elections, Bluhm said.

“We do this for every election,” she said. “We test every ballot style, every scenario for every election.”

Each ballot style, as well as its corresponding result, also has to recorded prior to and after it is tested, said Bluhm, whose office has stacks and stacks of ballots for the different precincts in Osceola County.

If there is the slightest discrepancy in the expected results from the testing, Bluhm said it leads to looking through the paperwork and the ballots to account for human error, such as voting for too many candidates in a particular race or in a variety of other ways.

With about half of the testing completed, Bluhm said this task for the general election would normally take longer.

“In the past, the ballots were bigger because of state propositions,” she said. “There aren’t any this year.”

While Bluhm and her staff are testing ballots on top of their usual duties, the county clerk doesn’t see any other way to complete the task than what they are doing.

“We could hire an outside company to come in and test the ballots and equipment,” she said. “That would be a high cost to the county. We can test them all of them here, and then I have a good idea of what to expect from the precincts when they come in on election night. If there are any issues, or something isn’t right, it’s going to most likely be an equipment issue.”

On top of finishing the task, Bluhm said the office also is waiting to receive the computer program for handicap accessible ballots to assist those with vision or hearing disabilities.

“We’re going to be able to download the program on a flash drive and then we’re going to have to test all of those as well,” she said.

Bluhm said her office also has seen a lot of absentee ballot applications and requests for the upcoming election.

“Folks are seeing something online to contact their clerk, and I’m getting requests,” she said. “However, if people want an absentee ballot, they have to request it from their local clerk, from their township or city.”

The county clerk said residents can request an absentee ballot until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.

“Every clerk has to make themselves available on Saturday, Nov. 5, for requests for absentee ballots,” Bluhm said.

Sample ballots can be found at the county clerk’s office or by visiting