First Wave of Ann Arbor Absentee Ballots Sent

The Ann Arbor city clerk’s office has sent out the first wave of 3,697 absentee ballots for the Nov. 6, 2012 general election. Registered voters who want to apply for an absentee ballot have until Nov. 3 to do that. Detailed information on applying for an absentee ballot is available on the Ann Arbor city clerk’s website.

A spreadsheet containing names and addresses of voters to whom absentee ballots have been sent is provided free of charge by the Ann Arbor city clerk to anyone who signs up on the email list. Summing the columns in that spreadsheet yields a breakdown by ward of the initial wave of 3,697 ballots as follows: Ward 1 – 454; Ward 2 – 987; Ward 3 – 600; Ward 4 – 807; Ward 5 – 849.

Unlike the August primary, when the election of precinct delegates was a barrier to establishing separate absent voter counting boards, absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election will be counted by a total of 11 different counting boards. Counting absentee ballots separately, instead of at the precincts, reduces the amount of work that poll workers have to do – because otherwise, they’d be responsible for feeding the absentee ballots through the optical scanning machine.

Nine of the 11 count boards correspond to precincts that have exactly the same ballot. For example, city clerk Jackie Beaudry explained to The Chronicle in response to an emailed query that AVCB11 (absent voter count board 11) includes Precincts 5-9 and 5-11 – because those two precincts have the exact same ballot.

But two of the count boards (AVCB1 and AVCB2) include precincts with multiple ballot styles, due to the way that district boundaries fall for the county board of commissioners. And they’re coded differently in the spreadsheet to make sure that the city staff issue the correct ballots to voters. For example, AVCB1 includes precincts in Ward 1 that are split between county board districts 7 and 8 – which are coded in the spreadsheet’s count board field as 1-1-7 and 1-1-8, respectively. [Ward 1, Precinct 1, county BOC district 1 or 2].

The combination of ballot styles in some of the count boards is based in part on at least two considerations. One is that the small number of ballots for some of the styles could conceivably pose a risk to voter anonymity. For example, in an extreme case, where a single absentee ballot were issued for one of the ballot styles, the reported election results for that count board would correspond exactly to that person’s voting preferences. And the name of the person could be identified through the clerk’s routinely disseminated AV spreadsheet.

Another consideration is the number of people and amount of paperwork associated with a count board. Establishing a separate count board to handle 100 ballots would require the same number of people and paperwork as a count board that handles 1,000 ballots. According to Beaudry, the city expects that each of the 11 count boards will handle 1,000-2,000 ballots in the upcoming Nov. 6 election.