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State to mail absentee voters applications in bid to limit poll crowds in May

The Detroit News

The Michigan secretary of state said Monday that absentee voter ballot applications would be mailed to all voters for the May 5 election, a move that aims for smaller crowds at the polls while ensuring "democratic rights are protected."

“Our country has a long history of carrying out elections in times of crisis, and we are fortunate to have the tools to uphold that history today,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, addressing voting issues amid a coronavirus pandemic.

“Voting by mail protects public health, is highly accessible, and was clearly mandated by Michiganders when they overwhelmingly voted in 2018 to amend our state constitution and afford everyone this right.”

Benson said she has been working with municipalities to determine if they need to hold elections in May or if ballot items could be postponed until an August election. May ballots include mostly school district millages and bonds, and "many districts have postponed" their May elections, but others have existing funds that are set to expire, she said in a statement.

Clerks have a few more days this week to decide, she said. For those clerks for whom elections aren't postponed, voter ballot applications will be mailed out. Included in the mailing will be a letter explaining that voting by mail is "the optimal way to cast a ballot due to the public health crisis."

“We are also working to ensure the health and safety guidelines of our state and federal government are followed in the leadup to and administration of the May 5 election,” said Benson.

“This includes working to recruit election workers to serve in all jurisdictions and providing hygiene supplies and explicit guidance on how to process absent-voter ballots and carry out other election duties while observing strict health precautions.”

The statewide total for coronavirus infection has jumped to 1,328 cases, according to the state health department on Monday. Fifteen people have died after being diagnosed with the virus.