Benson hails start of no-reason, mail-in voting in Michigan

Jocelyn Benson at a press conference in Flint, Feb. 21, 2019 | Ken Coleman

Michael Gordon, owner of the Great Lakes Sandwich Company, is a busy guy.

“I’m the only employee. I do the dishes,” the Flint Township resident said. “I take the orders. When I gotta leave [work], I don’t make any money. So anything that can keep me from having to miss money to do my civic duty, I’m all for it.”  

He applauded loudly when Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Thursday held a news conference highlighting the launch of no-reason, mail-in voting in the state, explaining it will make voting easier. This is the first day registered voters can request a mail-in ballot for the May 7 election.

It’s one of the election reforms that was part of Proposal 3, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2018. The new law also allows straight-ticket voting and same-day voter registration.

“If you want to fill out your ballot at home, you should be able to do so,” Benson said at the Flint Township Municipal office. “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, too. The era of no-reason, mail-in voting has begun in Michigan, and I’m excited about the potential it has to engage more of our fellow citizens in our democracy.”

Benson, the first Democratic secretary of state since 1995, called it a common-sense reform that saves administrative costs, reduces the number of headaches for voters, increases turnout and reduces lines at polling stations. She has long been a voting rights advocate and wrote a book on best practices for secretaries of state years before she was elected in 2018.

No-reason, mail-in voting removes Michigan from the ranks of the relatively few states that haven’t offered voters the option to mail in their vote for no reason, Benson noted.

John Gleason

At least 22 states have provisions allowing certain elections to be conducted entirely by mail, according to the nonpartisan, Colorado-based National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon, Washington and Colorado hold all elections entirely by mail.

Before Proposal 3 was enacted, voters could only request an absentee ballot if they were 60 or older, going to be out of town on Election Day, unable to get to the polls without assistance, serving as an election worker or in jail or in prison awaiting arraignment or trial.

Benson held a news conference with Flint Township Clerk Kathy Funk at her office. They were joined by other local officials, including John Gleason, a former state lawmaker and current Genesee County clerk/register of deeds.

“No-reason mail-in voting is a convenience that will help many people at election time,” Benson said.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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