July 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Detroit to offer absentee ballot requests through smartphones

Detroit — City voters can now request an absentee ballot through their smartphones, an initiative called “historic” Tuesday by the Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and City Clerk Janice Winfrey.

Detroit will now begin accepting such absentee ballot requests. Similar efforts in about three other municipalities will be unveiled next week, Johnson said.

These localities in Michigan will join Arizona, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and some municipalities in California that allow absentee ballots to be requested online. Other states such as Alaska, Georgia and Wisconsin allow voters to make requests via email, Johnson said.

“This is historic. It’s never been done before in the state of Michigan,” Johnson said. “We look forward with working with Janice and other clerks shortly. This isn’t online registration. This isn’t online voting. This is allowing the voter to apply for an absentee ballot.”

Winfrey, who is launching the effort in Michigan, said the move is necessitated to increase voter participation by using tools familiar particularly to a younger generation.

About 27 percent of votes cast statewide are through absentee ballots. About 30 percent of Detroit residents vote via absentee ballots.

“We know that our young people — all of us — use these smartphones all the time,” Winfrey said. “We want to be able to provide voters with information right at their fingertips. What matters (are) voters have the ability now to use their smartphones to access voter information as well as request an absentee ballot.”

Detroiters can apply to receive an absentee ballot through the Detroitballot.com website. There is also a mobile application called votefordetroit, where an absentee ballot also can be requested.

“What we want to do is broaden the way which we engage Detroit voters,” Winfrey said. “It’s very wise for us to move in that direction as it relates to absentee voting. If you want different results, you have to do something different. You have to think outside the box and you have engage the least likely voter.”

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