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Detroit clerk, Michigan Democrats debut online absentee ballot application

Detroit voters will now be able to access, sign and submit absentee ballot applications on their smartphones.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday.

Winfrey said it’s simply a matter of meeting voters where they tend to be these days—online.

“So why not? Why not be able to use their smartphone to request an absentee ballot?” Winfrey asked.

“We know that our young people use these phones all the time. All of us use these phones all the time. And so we want to be able to provide voters with information right at their fingertips.”

Johnson said state Democrats are behind one of the web applications, Detroitballot.com. But he insisted the aim is simply to increase voter participation.

“We do feel that when you look at the statistics of smartphone adoption, and the statistics of absentee voting growth in the state of Michigan…that this is the next outgrowth of that, and will increase participation,” Johnson said. “Among who and by how much, we can’t say yet.”

Johnson and Winfrey stressed this process only submits the request for an absentee ballot. The clerk’s office will still need to verify the applicant’s information and signature, and the individual still needs to meet the 6 statutory requirements for voting absentee under Michigan law.

“This is not online registration. This isn’t online voting,” Johnson said. “All this is, is allowing the voter to apply for an absentee ballot.”

At least 8 states already have similar online application processes.

Johnson said Winfrey is the first Michigan clerk to sign onto the program, but several more local clerks are expected to join in next week.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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