With the November general election under seven weeks away, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson discussed how voters can safely participate in the election in a press conference Wednesday.
While clerks are expected to see historic amounts of ballots cast despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the officials encouraged people to establish their plans for voting as soon as possible.
“Just like fighting this pandemic, democracy is a team sport, and we all have a part to play this fall,” Whitmer said. “So, no matter who you’re voting for or how you choose to exercise your right to vote this fall, make your plan now, and stick to it.”
There are many ways people can safely exercise their right to vote, Benson said.
“We’re on track to replicate our success this year for November,” Benson said. “Perhaps the silver lining of 2020 is that our voters will have several options to cast their ballots this year.”
According to Benson, voter turnout is expected to exceed 5 million, and more people are expected to vote prior to Election Day than ever before.
She said 2.3 million citizens have already requested to have an absent voter ballot sent to their home, which exceeds the previous record of 1.6 million absentee votes set in the August primary.
Michigan is on track to have 3 million people vote absentee in the election, Benson said.
Absentee ballots will start being mailed Sept. 24 and can be returned in its signed envelope and can be returned via mail, dropbox or at a local clerk’s office.
The governor commended the state Senate on passing Senate Bill 757, which would allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots a day before Election Day.
The proposal allows for a clerk of a city or township with a population of at least 25,000 to perform “absent voter ballot pre-processing activities” between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the day before the election.
The governor said she is “hopeful” the House of Representatives will pass the bill as soon as they can.
While Benson said the proposed reform is a “step in the right direction,” she said clerks still need more time to process the expected historic amount of ballots.
“The state Senate proposal will ultimately net our clerks an average of three additional hours to process ballots, and that is simply not enough if we’re going to meet the extraordinary demand that our clerks and their absentee counting boards will be facing this fall,” Benson said.
Additionally, early in-person voting begins on Sept. 24. Voters can go to their clerk’s office, fill their ballot out there and return it immediately.
In-person voting precincts will be open Election Day, with safety protocols in place and poll workers equipped with PPE.
“We are … working to ensure that on Election Day, our citizens will have access to precincts," Benson said. "And they will be able to exercise their potion to vote safely in-person at their local precinct."
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