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Michigan leaders are discussing vote by mail model for upcoming elections

Michigan leaders are figuring out how to hold elections safely.

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has two statewide elections left this year, the primary in August and the general election in November. At this point, the threat of COVID-19 is still unknown that far down the line.

"When we hold elections during a pandemic they need to be done safely, securely and in a way so citizens don't have to choose to risk their health in order to vote," says Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

But that's not what happened in Wisconsin. More than 50 people have now tested positive for COVID and health officials say it's because they voted in person during this year's primary.

"What you saw in Wisconsin was a failure on a number of levels," says Benson.

That situation has now led Benson to look seriously at a vote by mail model for the upcoming elections.

"If 95 percent of our citizens end up voting by mail, they need to have the tools to do so and our infrastructure needs to be set up to do that," says Benson.

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That set up has caused Benson to have discussions with leaders in Washington State where voting by mail has been the only option for years.

"Washington moved to a vote by mail model over the course of about 15 years," says Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

It was a significant shift that brought growing pains like delayed results. Some of the valid mail-in ballots in Washington don't even arrive until the day after the election.

"We have election results usually that are really meaningful about Friday of election week, not Tuesday night," says Wyman.

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It also costs more to run an election by mail due to envelope expenses and the need to hire additional workers. And some are questioning the integrity of the process, including President Donald Trump who has stated vote by mail is a fraud.

"When political leaders on the left and right start making allegations about voter suppression and voter fraud, we are putting our democracy at risk. I don't want to be overly dramatic but it is really the thing that keeps me up at night," says Wyman.

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