Secretary of State rolls out era of no-reason absentee voting



Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (left) with Flint Township Clerk Kathy Funk (right). Photo by Ben Gagnon

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (left) with Flint Township Clerk Kathy Funk (right). Photo by Ben Gagnon

FLINT TWP. — Voters in Michigan will now be able to fill out absentee ballots without having to provide a reason.

During a press conference held at Flint Township Hall last Thursday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the official launch of no-reason mail-in voting across the state.

“If you want to fill out your ballot at home, you should be able to do so,” Benson said. “And if you want to avoid the stress of finding time to get to the polls on Election Day, you should be able to do that. The era of no-reason mailin voting has begun in Michigan, and I’m excited about the potential it has to engage more of our fellow citizens in our democracy.”

Flint Township Clerk Kathy Funk joined Benson to provide remarks recognizing Feb. 21 as the first day Michigan residents can request to vote by mail without providing a reason—just in time for upcoming May elections.

“Now everyone can apply for an absentee ballot, no reason necessary,” Funk said. “From busy working moms and dads, to students off at college, to first responders working 12 or 24 hour shifts…they simply take it home (and) do any research if necessary. Mark it, seal it, sign it and send it back to the local clerk’s office. No more waiting in line, no more ‘I totally forgot it was election day.’”

Last November, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3, which included a provision that allows voters to obtain a mail-in ballot without providing a reason. Prior to that, voters had to meet one of six criteria points to qualify as an absent voter, such as being 60 years or older or expecting to be out of town on Election Day.

Michael Gordon, owner of Great Lakes Sandwich Co. & Café in Flint Township, said he is ecstatic about the changes.

“I work from open to close every day, and I’m the only employee at my shop,” he said. “So for me to leave and wait in line for an hour or two means a loss of revenue. I’m sure this (no-reason absentee voting) will benefit everyone who has a hectic schedule.”

In addition to promoting convenience, Benson said that no-reason absentee voting will help to boost voter participation in areas that have seen low turnout, such as some precincts in Genesee County and the Flint area.

The Secretary of State also announced the formation of the state’s first election modernization committee. Comprised of local election officials and voting rights advocates, the committee will be tasked with implementing voter-approved changes, gathering input from voters and identifying ways to make elections more fair and secure.

Registered voters who want to cast an absentee ballot can download a mail-in ballot application at Michigan.gov/Vote. They can also request an absentee ballot from their city or township clerk’s office prior to an election.

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