Lynn Afendoulis is a Republican member of the state House of Representatives representing Grand Rapids Township
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson purportedly has sent out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in Michigan so, according to her, they can vote from the safety of their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the news release announcing the letter she sent to 7.7 million registered voters states, “Record-breaking turnout was recorded in the approximately 50 elections held across 33 counties on May 5 with nearly 25 percent of eligible voters casting ballots and 99 percent of them doing so by mail or in a drop box. From 2010-2019, average turnout in local elections in May was 12 percent.”
Is this the reason the Secretary of State decided to complete a mass mailing that cost taxpayers $4.5 million? Is she trying to impact voter turnout? Voting is a civic duty that should be instigated by an individual’s desire to participate in the democratic process of voting – not an activity to be manipulated by a bureaucratic office.
Those of us who hold public office provide the impetus for turnout at the polls— voters show up either because they aren’t pleased and want to replace us, or they’re so pleased they want to retain us. But to use an office, a position, and $4.5 million in taxpayer money is unnecessary and irresponsible.
Additionally, the Secretary of State’s mass mailing invites fraud. Just the other day, a constituent sent a photo to one of my fellow representatives of five letters mailed to his home — one to him, one to his wife, and three to people who hadn’t lived there since 1996.
Yes, it is important to create reasonable access to the opportunity to participate in elections, including doing what we need to do to help people vote during a health crisis. It also is important to allow for absentee voting during normal times. But establishing this process as the new normal dismisses the importance of going to the polls, of the people who man the voting booths to ensure everything is done properly, of the sense of community and patriotism nurtured from this activity, and of the sanctity of clean elections.
Mail-in voting creates a mail-in democracy. Few things of value come easy; it takes work to be successful in work, in school, in a democratic form of government. Requiring people who can to make the journey to their polling place is critical. Allowing them to phone it in – or mail it in – threatens the very fabric of this country.