MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Voters in the City of Marquette will be among the first in the state to try out early voting. It is one of just a few municipalities picked by the state to participate in a pilot program.

Marquette City Clerk Kyle Whitney explains the pilot is happening ahead of a busy year for clerks statewide. “A lot of big election changes are happening in a really big election year. Constitutionally, all of the early voting provisions take effect statewide in 2024. And we’re immediately, in 2024, going to have a presidential primary election within the first three months of the year, and every jurisdiction in the state is going to have to provide early voting.”

That’s why Whitney says he made a point to tell the state he wanted to try it in Marquette, when the state first started discussing the pilot. “We can practice staffing. We can practice the processes, we can get used to the new equipment and storage and retention parameters. I think the ability to do that now before we’re forced to do it in February or March was attractive.”

Another dataset Whitney hopes to collect is the number of people who will choose to vote early instead of the other existing options.

Cost of early voting

The option to vote early also comes with a cost, according to Whitney. One contributing factor is the fact that a polling place used for early voting cannot be used on election day—and neither can the equipment. That means more laptops, more voting machines, more labor, more location rent. 

Whitney says the cost burden of the equipment won’t weigh on local municipalities, but labor costs will. “I don’t want to blow the [labor cost] concern out of proportion. I think if you look statewide, and if you look at a lot of small jurisdictions that are small townships or tiny cities and rural communities, it is a major concern. I think for the city, it is increasing our election worker salary [costs] considerably over previous years. In the grand scope of the city’s budget. It is not a huge chunk of money.”

There are options on the table to solve that problem, though. Whitney says smaller municipalities can share early voting places to split the cost. In Marquette, he says reducing the number of precincts from seven to four would go a long way. A bill is currently in the state legislature that would allow the reduction to happen.

Whitney says he and his team have already proposed a number of other options to the city commission, including to either reduce the number of or eliminate primary elections in odd years. That’s when the county commission is the big race, and if too many people file to run, then the city then must organize and pay for a primary in August. 

What to expect in Marquette this election

The early voting site will be at the Peter White Library from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 2-5. Election day is Nov. 7, when all 7 precincts will be open. You can apply for an absentee ballot now. You can find the application on the state’s website, along with a host of resources and information.