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Secretary of State takes steps she says will ease voting by mail in November

Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she will send out postcards to nearly four and a half million registered voters, starting next week, to inform them they are eligible to vote by mail, and explain how to do it.

Benson says a record number of Michigan voters voted by mail (also known as absentee voting) in the August primary, and the number voting by mail in the general election in November could be double or triple that.

Benson is also taking a number of other steps to try to ensure that city and township clerks have the funding and resources they need to handle the large number of ballots that are expected to arrive, including:

Benson is allocating CARES Act funds:

  • $2 million to reimburse jurisdictions that pay postage on ballot return envelopes.
  • $1.5 million to jurisdictions that order ballot envelopes redesigned to the standards of the United States Postal Service to be most effectively and efficiently processed through the mail.
  • $1 million more for jurisdictions to buy ballot drop boxes, automatic letter openers, and other equipment.
  • $1 million more in matching funds for jurisdictions to buy ballot tabulators (counting machines), including high-speed scanners.

The availability of ballot drop boxes in November could be crucial for ensuring everyone's votes are counted, according to voting rights groups.
The American Postal Service Workers union says new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is deliberately slowing down the mail, by removing mail sorting machines and slashing workers' hours, raising concerns for some that it's happening ahead of the November election. DeJoy has said the Postal Service needs to cut costs.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he does not want the Postal Service to receive several billion dollars in additional funding requested by congressional Democrats, because that would enable the agency to handle the large number of expected vote-by-mail ballots across the country. He later walked back his statement.

Trump also said, without evidence, that allowing voting by mail would result in a fradulent election.

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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