Ingham County Clerk Barbara Byrum. Photo courtesy Ingham County.
Ingham County Clerk Barbara Byrum. Photo courtesy Ingham County.

For Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, the day is about text messages, coffee and civic responsibility.

MASON, MI — Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum has been working out of a temporary office while the Lansing office has been closed during the pandemic, but the job she does hasn’t slowed down. If anything, it’s gotten more intense. 

“There is no such thing” as a typical day for Byrum, she says. 

Her office oversees the elections in Ingham County, which between the marked rise in absentee ballots, the record-setting voter turnout and the delays from the post office has been a titanic undertaking, but that’s not all her office does. 

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“Everything’s different, that’s one of the great things about the job,” Byrum told The ‘Gander. “We had a recount for the August election so last week I conducted a recount with the Board of Canvassers and employed six or eight individuals to assist with that recount.”

Like a number of other state, county and local officials, Byrum and other county clerks are elected. The fact that the election overseers are elected offices is a fact not lost on Byrum — in fact, she thinks that’s an essential characteristic of being a county clerk. 

“I’m held accountable to the voters. As a county-wide elected, I’m a constitutional office-holder, and I think that’s important because there are a lot of responsibilities associated with the county clerk’s office.”

Ingham County Clerk Barbara Byrum

“I program the election,” she added. “I program the computers to read the ballot and tabulate the ballot on Election Day, and I think that’s very important in our democracy. I think it’s important to be held accountable to the voters.”

In addition to election work, she oversees the documents of most major life events as well. Birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates are all processed by county clerks. So are military discharge papers, business founding documents and concealed carry permits. Notaries public are approved by her office as well. 

Beyond the elections and record-keeping, Byrum serves as the clerk of the Ingham County Commission, keeping minutes of their proceedings. 

“My day usually starts about 7:30, doing interviews, getting ready for the day, responding to emails, I’m very active on social media,” Byrum explained. 

“I drink a lot of coffee between 7 and 10 a.m.”

Ingham County Clerk Barbara Byrum

Byrum said that from there she eats at her desk and meets with her staff over lunch because that’s the only time they can keep her in one place long enough for a staff meeting. She then has meetings with other county clerks, mostly through video conferencing due to the pandemic. She said she has a lot of meetings, a lot of reading and a lot of emails until the end of her business day. She’s even done TikTok videos. But even when she ends her day, the work often follows her home. 

“I’ll go to the grocery store and I’ll probably get a text message with some kind of election question while I’m waiting to check out,” she said. “Then I’ll go home, have dinner with my family, probably answer a few more random text messages about elections, read Twitter quite a bit, then start the day off again.”

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Byrum lives for that pace, though. She recounted texting from her hospital bed after giving birth to her child. 

That’s the pace it takes to manage the records of businesses, births, deaths, marriages, a county commission and countless other important events while implementing an election for Ingham County’s 22,000 voters. 

Thankfully, there’s a way for Ingham County residents to help manage that elections: Michigan’s Democracy MVP program seeking volunteer poll workers.