Jocelyn Benson orders Michigan to mail absentee applications to all voters


“Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it,” the Secretary of State said in a news release.

Every registered voter in Michigan will receive an application to vote by mail in the August and November elections, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday morning. 

The change makes Michigan one of a handful of states to ease voting practices this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has complicated in-person voting and raised concerns nationwide over how to ensure safe access to the ballot box during the crisis. 

The state will send the state’s 7.7 million registered voters an absentee ballot application; about 1.3 million of those are already on the list to receive applications for every 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 news release. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

It doesn’t mean every Michigander will receive an absentee ballot, just an application for one. Voters can scan or photograph the completed application form and email or mail it to local clerks.

The plan will cost $4.5 million, which will be drawn from the state’s allocation of money from the federal CARES Act passed in March, Michigan Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow told Bridge via email. 

Michigan received around $3 billion in CARES Act funding, which can only be used for necessary spending due to the COVID-19 emergency which had not already been accounted for in the state budget.

All Michigan voters are eligible to vote by mail due to a 2018 statewide ballot initiative that put the right to no-reason absentee voting in the state constitution. 

The move was criticized by some Republicans, whose party at the national level has pushed back against plans by Democrats and voting rights groups to expand mail-in voting in the face of the pandemic. 

Former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, now a Republican state senator and chair of the Senate Elections Committee, said the money would be better used for personal protection equipment and that the decision “seems political.”

“I do question how and why this specific mailing was done right now. Local clerks are the ones who have always handled these requests, not the secretary of state,” Johnson said in a statement. “Like Gov. Whitmer, Secretary Benson seems to be taking unilateral actions with no input and questionable motives — and that is very troubling.

Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland and chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, told the Associated Press that she also thought the $4.5 million would have been better used for PPE for election workers, to keep polling places safe and sanitized, and on machines for quickly processing absentee ballots.

GOP officials, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns that mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud and would hurt Republicans’ electoral chances. 

The Republican National Committee has set up a website called Protect the Vote dedicated to fighting efforts to expand mail-in voting. In fact, experts say voter fraud is actually incredibly rare

Spokespeople for the House Republican caucus and the state GOP did not immediately return requests for comment from Bridge Tuesday morning. Amber McCann, spokesperson for the Senate Republican caucus, said via email: "Michigan voters already have the ability to request and complete an application, receive an absentee ballot, and submit an absentee ballot without ever leaving their homes."

Michigan is among 34 states to allow no-reason absentee voting. Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — conduct all elections by mail. Varied access to absentee voting, however, has prompted calls by elections officials, voting rights advocates and some Democrats to expand mail-in voting nationwide as the pandemic continues. Advocates fear a repeat of a chaotic primary Election Day in Wisconsin this year, which prompted long lines and was linked to new cases in at least 36 people who worked the polls or voted in person. Some Republican governors and secretaries of states have also endorsed the idea of vote-by-mail in their own states.

No-reason absentee voting has been popular in Michigan since its passage in 2018. According to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s office, more than twice as many people voted absentee in the March presidential primary election than during the previous one in 2016, when both parties had an open primary. 

Benson also sent out absentee ballot applications to all voters in communities with May 5 elections. The election saw “record-breaking turnout,” Benson’s office said, with 25 percent of voters casting ballots, 99 percent of which were by mail or in a drop box. The average turnout in local May elections over the past 10 years was 12 percent. 

Voters Not Politicians, an advocacy group behind the successful 2018 statewide ballot initiative to implement a redistricting commission, called upon the Legislature on Tuesday to further expand absentee ballot access.

“The Legislature has the power to authorize sending absentee ballots – not applications – to voters,” executive director Nancy Wang said in a statement. “Automatically sending ballots with pre-paid return postage will cut the red tape, save money, and empower all Michiganders to vote safely in this year’s elections.”

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Bobby Joe
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:41am

Boy, that $4.5 million that was allocated to help out Michigan residents and businesses sure would have been nice to use to help them out. People lost jobs, businesses out, schools and roads facing massive cuts- and somehow that money is being spent on this topic. What a waste.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:20am

More Trump socialism okay, but voting rights optional? Doofus, how much does it cost the state to run polls?

Libby Smart
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:44am

Does anyone know under what law this was authorized? Or under what budget appropriation bill this money was appropriated? This story is EXACTLY what conservatives, libertarians, moderates, rule-abiding, tea party, or whatever people have been complaining about. This might be a noble goal, it might be a worthy expense, and it might be something worth doing- but there are legal processes on how those questions are decided in America. Just because some people are sick does not mean that laws can be made up and money can be spent that isn't appropriated- we still live in a nation of laws, don't we?

And if we don't, and if these little illegal actions are allowed... then we don't live in a society of laws. And with no laws, I'm glad that I have more guns than you and that you're okay with lawlessness.

Hank Quayle
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:57pm

Voters in 2018 approved a proposal that says "A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and post-election audits to the Michigan Constitution. This proposed constitutional amendment would allow a United States citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to:
• Become automatically registered to vote when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines.
• Simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the 2-week period prior to an election, up to and including Election Day.
• Obtain an absent voter ballot without providing a reason.
• Cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular political party when voting in a partisan general election

The "law" that Michigan voters thought they were voting on would allow a United States citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to obtain an absent voter ballot without providing a reason, since before 2018 voters had to have a reason to obtain an absentee ballot. Most people figured that all they were doing by voting yes on this proposal was getting rid of the requirement for a reason, since that's what it said. But they'd be wrong- the Democrat Secretary of State has reinterpreted this proposal to mean that the Secretary of State is authorized to spend up to $5 million a year mailing all voters in Michigan applications for absentee voter ballots.

Silly voters, didn't see that one coming, did you?

A to Q
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:39pm

I did and I'm happy.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:51pm

Works for me. Should help both parties to increase voting.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:21am

Same law that authorizes elections.

Ruby Susan
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:09pm

Ahhh... that law. The law. The law about elections that does it. Anonymous votes Democrat with that kind of solid logic and keen legal understanding.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 10:08am

Presidential voting will be in person. Or war.
These stasi pigs must go.
Patriots are preparing as we speak.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:40pm

Go take a nap old man.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:41pm

"Patriots are preparing as we speak." You mean the couple of hair stylists brandishing clippers?

Bunched Panties
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:57pm

"War"? So absentee voting is the last straw, even though it's been around since 1954?

Mary Sue
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:46am

Okay, so first the Governor was just making stuff up and ordering it. But now the Secretary of State is just making up stuff too. This is getting absurd. Does every Democrat get to just make up things and then spend money on them, without authorizing legislation or appropriations of money? How come only Democrats get to do this?

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:23am

You mean like eight years under Snyder, saying one thing and doing another.

Mary Sue
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:56pm

"Saying one thing and doing another" is not the same as "making stuff up and ordering it". Is this what you do? Is this how you think? Does this sort of comment explain why you vote the way that you do? And even if your illogical comparison was valid (which it isn't), are you honestly arguing that two wrongs make a right? Are you proudly admitting that you are going to be embracing lawlessness (as you see it under the Snyder administration) with more lawlessness? If so, you shouldn't be proud- you are what is wrong with America.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 10:09am

You need to understand that mail-in voting is needed in order for all of the dead COVID patients to vote democrat. Also makes it easier and much more efficient to toss Trump votes in the trash.
This country is headed straight for civil war. Blows my mind how quickly it got to this point.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:42pm

But I thought no one died; it was a hoax.

Funny AF
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:44pm

Which ones are the Trump ballots, the ones that smell like Hydroxychloroquine?

Vince Caruso
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:03pm

Great news. Now maybe we will get a much fairer election in Michigan after years of suppress the vote efforts by the GOP and Oligarchs.
The 2016 election saw mass disallowed or uncounted voting mainly in Detroit and Flint which saw 10's thousand votes gone uncounted due to machine failures or closed/moved polling places according to poll watchers for/and reporting by Rolling Stone.

Happy Dance
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:25am

I soooooo agree.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:02pm

Keep drinking that Kool-Aid(tm). Democrats are the kings of voter fraud - I'm sure you ignored all of those articles and prosecutions. Ever heard of ACORN?
Maybe you should consider that if there is a machine failure or closed/moved polling place, it affects voters voting for both parties?
You've lost it. Maybe you never had it.

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:19pm

Can't wait to vote.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:57pm

I can't wait to vote... and vote... and vote... and vote... and vote again. All in the same election.

My vote counts
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:19pm

Now we can all vote by mail, like Trump.

Love it
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:21pm

Don't have to worry about coronavirus, the weather, or long lines. Sorry poll workers, but you never seem to know what you are doing.

Great idea
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:22pm

Now we can work out the bugs before the November election.

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:23pm

Jared Kusher implied we might not have elections in November.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:09pm

No he didn't.

Bright Future
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:28pm

"No-reason absentee voting has been popular in Michigan since its passage in 2018. According to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s office, more than twice as many people voted absentee in the March presidential primary election than during the previous one in 2016, when both parties had an open primary."

Don't underestimate the public's fear and angst with the GOP. It's very motivating.

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:29pm

I guess NOW we have to dismantle the USPS, ASAP.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 10:10am

USPS already preparing to identify likely Trump voters and "lose" those ballots... Just wait for it...

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:56pm

You mean chemical tracing of Hydroxychloriquine? Oh dear, I used to vote for Republicans, but won't anymore. Do you think the USPS under Trump's leadership will commit mail fraud to get rid of him? That's so scary. I bet will start a war. LMAO

Don't you think we all deserve the same rights as our doofus president who votes by mail?

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 1:06pm

Voting by mail opens up fraud. J Benson has been on the G Soros payroll since 2010 so she wants to change the way we vote and using this virus as an excuse to voting to fraud. Why change what we've been doing fir over 100 years? How can one person turn our voting procedures upside down with agreement by the people and our legislature? That's $4.5 million that could be used to help kids, seniors, and others who need food during this pandemic.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:24am

You think that's what Trump did in Florida?

Equal under law
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:28am

Why has it been okay for seniors and others since 1954?

Flat Earth
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:59pm

Diana, where did you buy your tinfoil hat?

Kevin Grand
Tue, 05/19/2020 - 5:21pm

The democrats plan to advance voter harvesting is moving ever closer to completion.

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

I see GOP
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 8:30am

So is that what the GOP has been doing since the 1950's? I always get a kick from GOP projecting. It gives a rare look into their corrupt minds and their plots.

Kevin's world
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:00pm

I think you've been harvesting too much weed.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 10:46am

I had two absentee applications mailed to me from the Michigan republican party 520 Seymour ave. Lansing Michigan 48933, before the primaries don't we want people to vote?

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:02pm

Only if they are democrats. LOL Careful, these wackos think applications are the same as ballots. Don't want them to soil their depends.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:02pm

There should not be a problem with everyone voting absentee if the person that is voting absentee is not someone else. Do we know for sure that an absentee ballot will not be mailed to a dead person? Do we know for sure that someone else will not forge the signature of another person? Do we know how many ballots will get lost in the mail? The answer is, no we don't.

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:04pm

Then why have we been doing it since 1954 for old people who could have died? Were you voting for grandma and collecting her social security after you offed her?

End racism
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:06pm

I have to say, it might be harder to throw away the votes of African Americans if you can't see their faces.

Sovereign Mary
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:42pm

The State of Michigan is already in tremendous debt, but the Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, goes ahead and pulls a very highly expensive stunt like this.

Sovereign Mary
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 1:45pm

The State of Michigan is already in tremendous debt, but the Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, goes ahead and pulls a very highly expensive stunt like this.

Around a Long Time
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:07pm

All this talk about fraud. Please cite cases in Michigan of voter fraud.

Old hippie
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 7:57am

Voter fraud is a hoax. Its fake news. Unless you count the elections stolen from the people by the electoral college. Now, that there is true fraud.