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Local Republican politicians to host absentee ballot protest

Karl Manke, a barber who defied the stay at home order, will start the bonfire.

WALKER, Mich. — Local politicians will host a protest in Grand Rapids on Friday evening for people to burn their absentee ballot applications. The "parking lot event" will take place at the DeltaPlex. 

This comes in response to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sending absentee ballot applications to all Michigan voters ahead of the August and November elections. Benson said this move ensures that voters do not have to choose between their right to vote and their health, as the state moves toward the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karl Manke, an Owosso, Mich., barber who defied coronavirus related stay-home orders and reopened his shop early last month, will light the bonfire. People attending the event are encouraged to bring “unsolicited, absentee ballot applications to be incinerated, under protest,” reads a press release about the event.

RELATED: Secretary of State: All registered voters will receive applications by mail

Michigan is not the only state to send ballot applications to every voter; it's a move that many states are making because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

As of Thursday, the state has had 59,496 coronavirus cases and 5,737 deaths, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. But, daily cases are continuing to remain low, and over 42,000 people have recovered from the virus as of a week ago. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ended her most recent stay-home order early, and many industries have been given the green light to reopen with strict safety provisions in place.

Organizers of Friday’s protest called the event “The Recall & Revolution,” in addition to the absentee voter application bonfire, a recall petition for Whitmer will be passed around.

A flyer for the event reads: “Together we will gather and burn all of the taxpayer funded applications, illegally sent to us from SOS Benson.” In 2018, Michigan voters approved a measure allowing for no-reason absentee voting. 

Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor and Michael Farage, who recently ran for Grand Rapids City Commission, are listed as contacts for the event. According to a release dispersed by Antor, there will be details disclosed at the event regarding a new bill that would upgrade charges for those participating in “violent rioting, such as we had in Grand Rapids last Saturday,” with up to domestic terrorism.

The rarely used riot charge, which several people already face tied to the destruction caused in downtown Grand Rapids on May 30, is up to a 10-year felony. The press release states that the bill was co-written by Antor and Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, R- Grand Rapids Township.

“This bill clearly differentiates between peaceful protests and the near anarchy we experienced over the weekend,” the release says.

The event will feature music by “Old Dudes ROCK.”

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