State Watch

Michigan secretary of state says all voters will get absentee ballot applications by mail

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Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced Tuesday that all of the state’s registered voters will receive applications for absentee ballots in the mail this year in an effort to avoid crowded polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move could work to expand voting in one of the most critical presidential swing states this November but may spark pushback from Republicans, many of whom have claimed without evidence that voting by mail is particularly susceptible to fraud.

Benson, a Democrat, said the decision to mail ballot applications to all of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters will make it easier for Michigan residents to later cast votes and protect themselves from the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 5,000 people in the state. About 1.3 million voters are already on permanent absentee voter list, meaning they are automatically mailed ballot applications before each election.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said in a statement. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

Benson cited 50 local elections that were held across Michigan earlier this month that saw a spike in turnout. The vast majority of ballots in those races were sent in via mail.

The applications will be mailed both for the state’s partisan primaries in August and for the general elections in November.

Mailing the applications to voters does not automatically guarantee that Michiganders will vote – they still have to fill the forms out and send it either digitally or in person to their local clerk to receive an actual ballot. The clerks will check the signature on the application with the signature in the voter’s file and, if they match, issue an absentee ballot.

Still, the effort is intended to maximize voter turnout during the pandemic while allowing voters to respect social distancing guidelines from state and federal officials.

“The vast majority of voters across the political spectrum want the option to vote by mail,” she said. “Mailing applications to all registered voters is one of the ways that we are ensuring Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, accurate and secure.”

It is still unclear if or how Republicans will oppose Benson’s measure, with many echoing arguments from President Trump that voting by mail is vulnerable to fraud and can hurt the GOP.

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans,” Trump tweeted last month.

There is no evidence to suggest that voting by mail is more vulnerable to fraud than any other method of voting or that it favors one party over another. Trump voted by mail in Florida earlier this year.

Trump narrowly won Michigan by about 10,000 votes in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, and the state is expected to once again be a key battleground where minimal shifts toward either party could impact the presidential race’s outcome.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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