Starting with this month’s primary election, Kalamazoo County residents can vote early in-person

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series.

KALAMAZOO, MI — For the first time, Kalamazoo County voters will have the right to vote early in-person in a presidential primary.
The Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds is introducing nine days of in-person early voting for the upcoming Feb. 27 presidential primary election.
“Early voting has been around for decades,” says Meredith Place, Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds. “We’ve seen it in southern states.”
She says it originated in Iowa but has only become a right available to Michigan voters with the passage of Proposal 2 in November of 2022.

“A new right was granted after the Proposal 2 in November of 2022,” Place says. “… The Kalamazoo County Elections Commission was charged with approving early voting locations. So we have selected four locations where early voting will happen from Feb. 17 to Feb. 25.”
Early in-person voting will occur from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting on Saturday, Feb. 17, and concluding on Sunday, Feb. 25. The locations are as follows:
  • The Kalamazoo County Expo Center – 2900 Lake St. in Kalamazoo;
  • The Portage Parks & Recreation Department – 320 Library Lane in Portage;
  • The Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University – 2251 Business Court in Kalamazoo;
  • The Douglass Community Association – 1000 W Paterson St. in Kalamazoo.
Voters in Pavilion Charter Township are an exception. They will have the option to early vote at their township hall rather than one of the four voting sites.

Early voting over nine days is such a dramatic expansion in the number of balloting days and in the scale of overseeing voting sites that state officials realized it would be impractical to have each jurisdiction set up polling stations in each of their precincts, explains John Curran, deputy clerk and register of deeds for Kalamazoo County. There are, for instance, 19 different cities and townships in Kalamazoo County. The state therefore encouraged municipalities to collaborate to have collective voting sites.
Meredith Place, Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of DeedsTo assist with the early in-person balloting, the county is appointing its own election inspectors (the folks who check voters’ information and direct them at polling stations). Cities and townships typically hire election inspectors to administer elections at polling sites in their jurisdictions. The county typically handles candidate filings, along with programming, printing, and disseminating the ballots. 
The county is only recruiting and training inspectors for early in-person voting, county officials say. The cities and townships will continue to do all the things they have always done to run polling locations in each precinct on election day.
After soliciting applications for election inspectors to oversee its four early in-person locations, the county has nearly 400 applicants from members of the community.
“We received quite a few referrals from our local clerks,” Place says. Regarding the individuals who have applied, she says, “Many have worked throughout the county at their local jurisdictions.”
They will be necessary to fill lots of shifts — keeping nine or 10 inspectors at each location from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the balloting. County officials say they expect the average inspector will work about four days. Each will be paid at a rate of $16 per hour. Although many are already been certified as election inspectors by the state, Curran says a training session specific to the new early in-person procedures was being developed by the state.
Election inspectors should not be confused with election challengers, who scrutinize election procedures.

Those interested in applying for this or future elections may find information at elections@kalcounty.com or by calling the county’s elections team at 269-384-8080.

Some other important things to know:
  • As in years past, Michigan's Presidential Primary election is considered a closed primary, requiring voters to select their party preference of Democratic, Republican, or No Party Declaration before receiving a ballot in any manner. However, since there are no non-partisan races or ballot questions on the ballot, Kalamazoo County voters will not have the option to select No Party Declaration.
  • There is no political party registration requirement in Michigan. A voter's participation in the Presidential Primary does not determine how they may participate in future elections.
  • Michigan continues to have no-reason absentee voting. Voters who have previously requested to be on the Permanent Ballot List will receive a ballot selection form in the mail from their local clerk. Those voters must return that form to indicate which ballot they would like their clerk to send. If a voter on the Permanent Ballot list makes no selection, a ballot will not be mailed to them. Absentee ballots were expected to be available on and after Jan. 18.
  • Early in-person voting is to be made available at all subsequent state and federal elections.
“We at the county are excited about the presidential primaries,” Place says. “We are excited to work with all of our clerks throughout Kalamazoo County for the chance to vote, early and in person."

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Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.