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Benson hopes to improve absentee voting for November election

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson highlighted the success of Tuesday's election, but pointed out ways it can improve before November.

A record number of Michiganders voted absentee during the Aug. 4  primary election. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a Tuesday night press briefing that over 2 million people requested an absentee ballot and nearly 1.6 million were returned. Benson's office sent out absentee voter applications to every registered voter to encourage mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"By all accounts today's successes underscore just that we are ready for November. We're ready to ensure that even in this historic election cycle with new rights and challenges in place in a pandemic, changing everything day by day, we are ready to ensure that every vote is counted," she said in the 8:30 p.m. briefing.

Most polls in Michigan closed at 8 p.m. 

Benson noted that the vast number of people who voted absentee shows its popularity right now. Michigan voters adopted a proposal in 2018 to allow no-reason absentee voting. This was rolled out fully earlier this year and has taken on new significance during the pandemic. 

Michiganders were able to vote "safely and securely," Benson said, by knowing their options: mailing a ballot in, dropping a ballot off or voting in person. 

Despite the success of this election, Benson said there is work that needs to be done ahead of the November general election, which will bring out a high number of voters. 

"We need the state legislature to act--to enact legislation to allow for to begin processing absentee ballots prior to election day," Benson said. "We could easily have two to three times the number of ballots sent through the mail or voted absentee in November, and we must follow the lead of the dozens of other states, the 18 states, with more experience with absentee voting and give our clerks time before election day to begin preparing ballots."

Benson also encouraged the Michigan legislature to make further changes to make the absentee voter system run more effectively amid high voter turnout. 

"We need our legislature to allow ballots postmarked by election day, but received in the days that follow, to still count. In March we saw 4,600 ballots rejected because, though they were sent prior to election day and otherwise valid, they arrived after election day," Benson said.

Under Michigan law, ballots need to be received by the clerk by 8 p.m. on election day. 

"It's a simple logistical fix that lawmakers can make to ensure come November, thousands and thousands will be counted that otherwise might not be under the current law," Benson said.

   

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