Todd Schmitz
Deputy Clerk

Carmella Sabaugh
Macomb County
Clerk / Register of Deeds

Betty A. Oleksik
Deputy Register of Deeds

 

February 13, 2008

 
     

Dear Municipal Office Holder:

I am writing to ask you to pass a resolution to provide your municipality’s seniors with an equal opportunity to get an absent voter application form. I have enclosed a sample resolution. The resolution would authorize your clerk to mail absent voter application forms (not ballots) to all seniors in your municipality. This is important because this year we face an important county charter election in addition to the presidential election and your municipality’s seniors deserve to be heard. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, we can all agree that your municipality’s clout will be increased if more people vote.

Unfortunately, confusion over two recent court cases caused many local clerks to stop their long-standing practice of mailing absent voter application forms to all seniors. But the law is clear: when a clerk gets prior approval from the local governing body to mail absent voter applications to all seniors, an AV application mailing is ok. A copy of the circuit court opinion in Fleming v Sabaugh supporting my position is on my web site for your review. The judge said if the governing body approves the mailing, then it cannot be challenged due to the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine. But if the governing body has not approved an AV application mailing, as happened a few years ago in Detroit, then clerks may not mail mass AV applications, according to the Court of Appeals in Taylor v. Currie. Passing the enclosed resolution will return the status quo so that clerks may again mail AV applications to all seniors.

If this resolution is not passed, then voter turnout in your municipality will be reduced. Confusion over this issue has already reduced absent voter turnout. Absent votes countywide were much lower for the January 15 presidential primary than they could have been because AV applications were not mailed to all seniors.

Your clerk will already mail AV application forms to a “permanent AV list,” which is a good service. But mailing to the “permanent AV list” is no substitute for this resolution. If this resolution is not passed, the situation will be confusing because some clerks will mail to the “permanent AV list,” but there are no guidelines regarding the “permanent” AV list maintained by some local clerks. In some communities, all seniors are on the “permanent” list. In others, a senior has to know about this special list in order to be placed on it. Your municipality’s seniors may not even know whether or not they are on the permanent list. The resolution will make sure all seniors are treated equally, whether or not they know about the “permanent” AV list.

Last November, the city councils of Birmingham, Farmington Hills, and Troy passed resolutions authorizing their local clerks to mail AV applications to all seniors. Whether or not those clerks will actually do the mailings is unclear, but Oakland County voters have a potential advantage over Macomb County voters whose clerks do not yet have authority to mass mail AV application forms, unless this resolution is passed now to provide an equal opportunity.

In Macomb County, the cities of New Baltimore, Roseville and Richmond and the Village of Romeo have already passed unanimous resolutions directing absent voter applications be sent to all seniors. In Harrison Township the resolution is on an upcoming agenda. I believe seniors in your municipality are just as important as seniors in those communities and should be given the same opportunity.

Not only will mailing absent voter applications to all seniors in your municipality give them the same opportunity Oakland County seniors have, but if more people vote absentee then there would be shorter lines at the polling places, making it easier for voters and election workers at the polls. Reducing lines at polling places is especially important this year because this will be the first presidential election that your municipality’s voters will be required to show photo ID. While the merits of this law have been debated, all agree that the photo ID requirement will make voting at the polls take a little longer for everyone. Passing this resolution and encouraging absent voting will reduce polling place delays in your municipality.

Providing all of your municipality’s seniors an equal opportunity to get an AV application could also save money. An AV application mailing qualifies for the non-profit bulk election postage rate of 15.8 cents per piece. But if your clerk processes the requests individually, then your municipality may pay a first-class postage rate of 41 cents per piece, more than twice the bulk rate cost.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners in January unanimously passed a resolution allowing me to mail AV applications to your municipality’s seniors who would otherwise not receive one from their local clerk. But I believe it would be better to preserve your local control over elections. This is why I am giving you the opportunity to pass your own local resolution and mail AV applications under your clerk’s or municipality’s name this election year instead of mine.

Your municipality has approximately (number of municipality’s seniors was inserted here) voters age 60+. You have approximately (number of municipality’s permanent AV seniors was inserted here) people on your “permanent AV list.” The total cost per absent voter application mailed at bulk rate postage, including printing, is about 41 cents each. I expect the additional cost of this resolution to provide each of your municipality’s seniors with an equal opportunity to get an absent voter application form would only be about $(cost was inserted here).

Your municipality’s seniors should be given an equal opportunity to get an absent voter application and should have the same opportunity as Oakland County seniors. Your municipality’s seniors should have the same opportunity as seniors in other parts of our county. Many of our county’s seniors fought in wars to defend our Democracy and the right to vote, or marched for civil rights to protect our right to vote. What message would be sent to our “Greatest Generation” if we have the chance to give all of our county’s seniors an equal opportunity to get an AV application but fail to do so?

You may use this letter as a letter of support for the resolution. Please let me know if you put this item on your agenda. I plan to speak in favor of such a resolution if it is placed on your agenda or during public comments at an upcoming meeting. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 586-469-7939.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Carmella Sabaugh
Clerk / Register of Deeds

Clerk's Office
40 N. Main St.
Mount Clemens, MI 48043
586-469-5120
Fax: 586-783-8184
http://www.macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice
clerksoffice@macombcountymi.gov

Fax-On-Demand

Michigan: 1-888-99-CLERK
Out of State: 310-575-5035

Register of Deeds
10 N. Main St.
Mount Clemens, MI 48043
586-469-5175
Fax: 586-469-5130
http://www.macombcountymi.gov/registerdeeds

registerdeeds@macombcountymi.gov