Michigan is embracing May’s winning strategy that shattered election turnout records for August and November elections. But President Trump doesn’t understand how it worked.
LANSING, MI — The May election in Michigan shattered previous records for similar elections and state leaders took note. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is setting the state up for the same successes in August.
Tuesday, Benson announced every one of Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot application for the November election, the Detroit Free Press reports. This is a repeat of the process used in May that helped the election set records for levels of engagement and garnered a 25% voter turnout.
“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. “We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote.”
As The ‘Gander has reported, Michigan is one of the deadliest states for patients diagnosed with the coronavirus, with almost one in ten confirmed coronavirus patients now dead.
Actual Ballots v. Applications
One issue that voters ran into in May, however, was confusing an absentee ballot application for the ballot itself. An application must be filled out and returned in order for a voter to be mailed the actual ballot later on. Benson has called on The ‘Gander and our partners in Michigan media to help explain the process to voters.
This step is necessary because it would require a change in law from the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature to skip the ballot application process during the pandemic, as Nancy Wang, Executive Director of Voters not Politicians, told WLNS.
“Due to the health crisis, what we really need is to put an absentee ballot in every voter’s hands and we need the legislature to act to do that,” Wang said.
A Cloud of Misinformation
As successful as May’s election was, Republicans are reluctant to allow the next test of a statewide vote by mail effort. The Free Press notes that it is likely that Benson’s decision will be challenged in courts with the argument that it may not be as necessary in August or November to mail in ballots as it was in May.
“We’re not in a time crunch anymore, why would you change the way we do it now?” former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, told WLNS. “It costs millions of dollars and open it up to fraud because you’re sending out absentee ballot requests to people that are not eligible voters at all.”
President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the process of absentee or mail-in voting, despite voting by mail himself, The ‘Gander reported.
Initially, Trump characterized the process as one rife with voter fraud, but after that claim was thoroughly debunked by the New York Times, he added that voting by mail is politically disadvantageous for Republicans.
“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted at Fox and Friends. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
On Wednesday, Trump incorrectly asserted that “a rogue Secretary of State” was sending absentee ballots to every voter in a tweet, rather than applications. Responding to that misunderstanding, he threatened to hold up “funding” for Michigan. It isn’t clear what specific funding he meant.
“Hi! I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson,” Benson said in a retweet. “And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”
As noted above, it would require a change in law to allow the state to skip the absentee ballot application process.
“There will be efforts — strong, well funded, national and perhaps internationally-led efforts — to try and confuse voters about their votes and their rights in our state,” Benson told constituents in a tele-town hall.
Trump later deleted and revised his tweet about Michigan’s “rogue” Benson. Though his revised tweet still contained inaccurate information, calling the mailing of absentee ballot applications illegal. Benson corrected him again, and again reminded him of her name.
Trump will speak in Ypsilanti Thursday as part of a previously-scheduled trip, The ‘Gander reports.
When Mail-in Voting Works
But on the other side of the aisle, the successes of May point to a desire and eagerness to vote by mail in future elections. State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation to make every election primarily conducted through mail-in voting.
“The creation of a right for every citizen to vote by mail, that is crucial to ensuring that as this pandemic continues no citizen feels they have to choose between their health and their vote,” Benson said at a tele-town hall with The ‘Gander and Equality Michigan. “Our goal is to ensure every citizen knows the choice they have to vote from home and how to request a ballot and mail it back so they can vote safely.”
Benson has repeatedly said that the lessons learned from the May election is that the will to participate in democracy is not crushed by the coronavirus pandemic among Michiganders. As such, her office is prepared to continue providing for safe, secure elections throughout the pandmeic.
“We want every citizen to know that the elections this fall will happen and they will have the right to vote by mail in it, regardless of what changes with the current health pandemic,” she said.