SOS Benson: All registered voters to receive applications to vote by mail

Published: May. 19, 2020 at 9:33 AM EDT
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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says all Michigan registered voters will receive an absentee ballot to vote by mail in the August and November elections.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” said Benson. “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 of the 7.7.million registered voters in the state of Michigan, about 1.3 million are on the permanent absent voter list, receiving applications in the mail from their local election clerk ahead of every election.

Some jurisdictions are mailing applications to all local registered voters, however, the Michigan Department of State's Bureau of Elections is making sure all remaining registered voters get an application, Benson's office said.

“We appreciate that some clerks are proactively protecting public health by mailing applications to all their registered voters, and we are fulfilling our responsibility to provide all voters equal access,” said Benson. “We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote.”

Benson's office said the application mailed to registered voters from the Bureau of Elections includes a cover letter with instructions. The secretary of state said once the application is signed by the voter, they can mail it or email a photo of it to their local clerk whose contact information will be included in the application.

Benson's office said voters can also register to vote and download the application at

Voters can also register and join the permanent absent voter list on the website, Benson's office said.

“The vast majority of voters across the political spectrum want the option to vote by mail,” said Benson. “Mailing applications to all registered voters is one of the ways that we are ensuring Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, accurate and secure.”

Some lawmakers said they think the applications are redundent.

State Senator and former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said, "Local clerks usually send out the applications for decades, not the secretary of state. The secretary of state is acting like the governor making these decisions unilaterally with no input."

The senator raised concern for voter fraud.

Johnson said, "The local clerks get them to the people that want them, the people that do live in the district, the people that are alive. That is the biggest difference. When you start sending out opportunities for people to vote that are dead that is not a good thing for integrity."

Nancy Wang, Executive Director of Voters Not Politicians, released the following statement on Benson's decision to send absentee ballots to all state registered voters:

"We call on the state Legislature to act to protect voters’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud the Secretary of State’s office for doing what it can in the absence of legislative action to help voters vote by mail. But the Legislature has the power to authorize sending absentee ballots – not applications – to voters. 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.

A study from Pew Charitable Trusts found that Colorado, which has one of the most robust vote by mail programs in the nation, is estimated to have saved millions of taxpayer dollars at the state and local levels and provides a secure, more efficient voting experience. A majority of Colorado voters returned their ballots in person to their clerk’s office or in a secure drop box in the 2014 election."

Benson said there was record-breaking turnout in the May 5 election with nearly 25% of eligible voters casting ballots with 99% of them doing so by mail. The secretary of state said the average turnout in local elections during the month of May averaged 12% from 2010-2019.

In the May 5 election, about 50 elections were held across 33 counties, Benson's office said.

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