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Michigan needs election workers during COVID-19 crisis

absentee ballot in envelope
Nadya Peek
Flickr CC BY 2.0

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is looking for people to serve as election workers for the May 5th local elections. 

Some clerks have reported that many of their regular election workers are seniors and have indicated they are not available to serve in May because of their increased vulnerability to the coronavirus.

"In a democracy, election workers are our most valuable players," said Benson. "So we're asking people to sign up right now when it is critical to keep the trains running and ensure our system of government remains accountable to the people."

Benson said all election work will take place according to strict protocols to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, including social distancing and sanitizing.

Those interested in serving can apply here. Their interest forms will be referred to local clerks who need help. Those selected will be paid for their time.

The May 5th elections will be conducted mostly by mail. Benson's office will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, the goal being for everyone who can to stay home and vote by mail. But Benson said election workers are still needed to process and count ballots and to staff clerk's offices.

Benson said she hopes new election workers will stay involved for the August and November elections as well. 

According to Benson's office, clerk's offices will remain open through Election Day to enable same day voter registration and voting in person, including for people who who need to drop off their ballots if they forgot to mail them in on time and for people with disabities who wish to vote using assistive equipment.  

Not all jurisdictions are holding local elections in May, and most of the votes are on school district millages and bonds, according to Benson's office. Last month Benson urged clerks with votes scheduled in May to postpone them to the August election. According to Benson's office, about half did.  Those that did not often said the reason was that school funding would expire this summer. 

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.