Michigan says all voters will be sent absentee ballot applications

Michigan’s secretary of state announced Tuesday morning that all registered voters in the crucial general election battleground state will be mailed an application to vote by mail in November.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wrote in a statement.

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“Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it,” she said.

Benson said that 1.3 million of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters are on the permanent absentee ballot list, which means they are mailed applications ahead of every election.

She said some jurisdictions in Michigan are now mailing absentee ballots to all local registered voters amid health concerns over in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state’s Bureau of Elections move will ensure that all remaining registered voters receive an application, she said.

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“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, who in 2018 became the first Democrat in Michigan to be elected secretary of state in nearly a quarter-century.

The move may anger some Republicans and could possibly lead to a court battle.

President Trump tweeted early last month that "Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, (it) doesn’t work out well for Republicans."

The president and other GOP leaders have repeatedly railed against expanded balloting by mail, saying that it leads to voter fraud. Democrats – pushing back on such arguments – say that cases of actual voter fraud are limited and claim that Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout to improve their chances of winning elections.

Sending applications for an absentee ballot is different than sending ballots directly to all registered voters.

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Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, speaking to reporters on Monday, said that “I don’t really have an issue with absentee ballot request forms being sent out to voters as much [as] ballots being sent directly to voters. I think the request form is one mechanism of ensuring that that voter is who they are.”

McDaniel emphasized that “we are really against, when people talk about mail-in voting, the ballots being sent directly to people who may or may not want them, or sent to all the registered voters, even when their [state’s] voter rolls have not been cleaned up… those are the things that we are really pushing back against.”

Michigan is one of three so-called ‘Rust Belt’ states – along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – that the Democrats had carried in presidential elections for a quarter-century until Trump narrowly flipped them from blue to red in 2016, helping him upset Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the White House.

Michigan changed its rules two years ago to allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without an excuse, which helped boost absentee balloting in the March presidential primary from 18 percent four years ago to 38 percent this year.

The state holds its non-presidential primary on Aug. 4, and then votes again for the general election in November.