Gearing up for the presidential primary

Alex Doty • Jan 27, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Michigan’s presidential primary election is just six weeks away, and the process has begun for voters who want to cast their ballots early.

Late last week, local municipal clerks’ offices were required to start sending out absentee ballots for the presidential primary election, which takes place March 8.

“It’s pretty unusual,” Ottawa County Elections Coordinator Steve Daitch said. “We only have an election like this every four years.”

What makes this election different from others is that voters have to choose which ballot they want — Republican, Democrat or “no party.”

“No one in the state has to (register) as a member of a political party, (but) you do have to request a ballot for that political party,” Daitch explained. “In Ottawa County, because there is a countywide proposal, there is a third option.”

Daitch noted that if a voter doesn’t specify one of the three options on their absentee ballot request, their local clerk will try to get in touch with them to get the right ballot mailed. He added that if voters go to the polls in person, they’ll be able to ask for one of three ballots.

Unlike the Republican and Democrat ballot, the “no party” ballots will only have local ballot proposals.

This year, local proposals include:

— The Ottawa County Community Mental Health millage proposal, which would generate about $3.2 million a year for the county’s Community Mental Health agency. The millage is for 0.3 mill, or a $30 property tax hike per $100,000 of taxable valuation, and it would last for 10 years.

— Voters in Grand Haven Township also have a five-year transportation millage renewal. The millage, which would raise money for both Harbor Transit service and road maintenance, would be 0.95 mill, and generate an estimated $671,678 in its first year.

Local government leaders have chosen to remain silent on the local ballot proposals as a result of Public Act 269, a new state law that restricts public employees and officials from using public funds or resources to communicate about a local ballot question within 60 days of its vote.

“Until the law gets clarified, (Ottawa County officials) will not speak directly about the millage,” County Administrator Al Vanderberg said in a recent Holland Sentinel report.

Residents have until Monday, Feb. 8, to register to vote before the primary election.

“If you’re requesting an absentee ballot, you have until the Saturday before, on March 5,” Daitch said. “The local clerks’ offices do have to be open that Saturday.”

Voters have until the close of polls on election day to submit their absentee ballots.

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