The November general election will have a lot on its ballot, from who is choosen to be the next president, senator, congressional representatives, state and county leaders as well as some local municipal officials. According to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, there could be as many as five million ballots cast in the state, with possibly three million of those by absentee ballots.
In November 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported Proposal 3, 67 percent to 33 percent, to bring same-day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, automatic voter registration and other changes to Michigan's election law. The ballot issue also restored straight-ticket voting, which the state legislature in 2015 abolished after being allowed for 127 years.
Michigan is now in line with 37 other states and Washington D.C. which permit voters to obtain an absentee ballot with no reason needed. Numerous other states also already allow same day registration as long as a voter has photo ID and proof of residency. The state of Idaho, for example, has encouraged same day voter registration as far back as 1994.
Security and sanctity of individual votes is not a concern to election experts nor local municipal clerks. Michigan utilizes paper ballots, so there is back up for all votes. All voters, whether in person, where signatures are verified at the precinct, or on absentee ballots applications and then on the absentee ballot envelopes when they are returned, have voter signatures verified against what clerks have on file. Oregon, where they have had only mail-in voting, which is the same as absentee ballots, since 2000, has had only 12 cases of voter fraud out of 100 million ballots cast – a rate of .00001 percent.
Despite desperate allegations by some politicians, there is no reason to worry about voting absentee, nor about having your ballot counted. It will be counted. It just might take a few days.
And that is the real concern for local clerks, both county and municipal. State legislators can help them, and they can – and should – do it right now. State Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), who for eight years was Oakland County Clerk, and then for another eight years was Michigan Secretary of State, has sponsored two desperately needed bills, both of which are stalled by Republican legislators, claiming they will cause a “severe burden” on voters. Let's just say that Johnson, a fellow Republican, knows what she's talking about. And she says that it will actually make life better for everyone.
Senate Bill 756, would permit shifts of election workers to work. The other, Senate Bill 757, would allow municipal and county clerks to open the outer envelope of absentee ballots on the Monday prior to the election to expedite processing on election day.
Currently, once election workers enter a precinct or absentee voting counting area, they cannot leave until all ballots are counted – which some clerks believe could take 48 hours or more. As West Bloomfield Clerk Debbie Binder said, “It's inhumane to keep people that long. You're dealing with human beings.”
That bill passed the state Senate in June, but has been held up by House Majority Leader Lee Chatfield in that chamber.
Senate Bill 757, to permit the opening of the outer envelope of absentee ballots only on the Monday before election day, in order to get them ready to be fed into voting machines, would greatly speed up the process without compromising the privacy of voters, clerks said. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has prevented the bill from coming to the full floor of the state Senate for a vote.
Absentee ballots will arrive around October 1. If you're choosing to vote absentee this year, be sure to fill it out early, and drop it in the mail at least 15 days before November 3, or drop it in your community's voter drop box. Or else make it to your local precinct on Election Day.
Whatever you do, whichever way you choose, just be sure to vote.