Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday that all Michigan voters will receive an application to vote by mail for the upcoming August and November elections, citing possible health concerns stemming from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“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. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”
“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,” the Michigan official continued. “We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote.”
The Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections will send voters a letter containing instructions on how to vote via mail and require applicants to mail back a signed application. Conversely, voters can email a photo of their signature to a local election clerk.
“The vast majority of voters across the political spectrum want the option to vote by mail,” added 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.”
Currently, approximately 1.3 million Michigan voters out of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters are on the permanent absent voter list.
In March, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who is under consideration to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, expanded absentee voting by allowing the state mail ballot applications to every voter in around 50 jurisdictions.
Earlier May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order permitting all registered voters in the state to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election, also citing health concerns from the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh slammed Newsom’s decision, calling it a “thinly-veiled political tactic” to “undermine” election security.
“There’s a vast difference between people voting absentee by mail because they can’t be at the poll on Election Day versus mailing everyone a ballot – even those who didn’t request one – is a wide open opportunity for fraud,” Murtaugh added. “California has a bad record on ensuring that people on the voter rolls still live at the same address, still reside in California, or are even still alive. Everyone is concerned about the safety of voters, but jeopardizing election security is the wrong way to go about it.”
Recent data has not shown a compelling public health justification for vote-by-mail. Wisconsin is one of the only U.S. states that held its primary election with in-person voting after the coronavirus lockdown began. Only a few dozen people at maximum were confirmed to have contracted the virus after participating either as voters or poll workers, and none of those cases were fatal. Out of the 413,000 participants, that equals an infection rate below two-hundredths of one percent. Just days later, South Korea held national elections which did not result in any new coronavirus cases.