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Letter: Conducting elections preserves their integrity

The Detroit News

Re: The Detroit News April 19 editorial, “Preserve integrity, safety of the vote”: In less than two weeks voters will cast ballots in some 200 communities across Michigan, including within the two counties we serve. It is understandable that in these uncertain times some have called for forgoing the election on May 5, but make no mistake — the best way to preserve the integrity of our elections is to hold them.

Local jurisdictions were given the choice to postpone their regularly scheduled May 5 elections until August, and many did just that. However, local leaders across the state chose to move forward as planned. As such, a process for conducting the May 5 election was specially and carefully designed to protect the health of voters and election workers alike and still make sure voters’ voices are heard. 

The upcoming election will be conducted almost exclusively by absentee ballot — an option made available to every registered voter by Proposal 3, which Michigan voters passed in 2018. One in-person location in each jurisdiction will be open on Election Day for any citizen who chooses to vote in person. Find out more about the specifics of your local community’s election at www.michigan.gov/vote.

An election official cleans a voting booth before a person votes at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Rather than maintaining and staffing dozens of polling locations in each county, voters can cast their ballots the same way both deployed service members and senior citizens have voted for decades. This will save time and money and protect public health. 

As with all our elections, local clerks — Republican and Democratic, elected and appointed — have the proven ability, technology and hands-on experience to process and verify ballots submitted by mail and conduct fair, accurate and secure elections. 

More than 1,600 Michigan citizens have answered the call and volunteered to work the May election, at a pace of more than four times the demand.

May 5 will be a needed proving ground for clerks and election administrators to organize and prepare for the anticipated record voter participation, and associated challenges, that lie ahead in August and even more so in November.  

Maintaining our democracy in the midst of the pandemic is among many challenges facing our state and nation. Just as together we work to reopen businesses, sporting events, public institutions and public spaces, there will be risks. But with planning and practice we won’t be taken by surprise and risks can be mitigated. And the even bigger risk associated with shuttering our democracy and stifling the people’s voice will be averted.

In 1864 we forged ahead with an election during the dark days of the Civil War when over 150,000 Union soldiers became America’s absentee voting pioneers. Again, in 1944 we risked changing course “mid-battle” by exercising our freedom to choose a leader while opposing an empire whose ruler was absolute. And during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 we did not allow fear to overrun our democratic values. 

Exercising our right to vote is a symbol of strength and demonstrates the resilience of our Republic. It also sends a message to our fellow citizens that things are going to be OK.

Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County clerk and register of deeds 

Fred Miller, Macomb County clerk and register of deeds