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Absentee ballot requests up substantially from 2018 primary

Lansing volunteers prep absentee ballot mailings at tables wearing masks
Sarah Lehr
Volunteers gather in Lansing's South Washington Elections Unit on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021 to prepare the first round of absentee ballots which will be mailed out Thursday, Sept. 23 in advance of November's general election.

With less than four weeks remaining until Michigan’s primary elections in August, officials say they’ve already received more than 875,000 absentee ballot requests.

That’s hundreds of thousands more applications than at this point during the last gubernatorial election year in 2018.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says it’s a sign that voters trust in the absentee voting process — regardless of misinformation.

“Most voters on both sides of the aisle are smart enough to know the difference between what’s truth and what’s not," she said. "It’s also a reflection of the work of election officials across our state to continue to be transparent and professional and non-partisan and truthful about how they operate our elections."

According to state data, at the four-week mark before the 2018 primaries, more than 480,000 absentee ballots had been issued in response to requests. This year, that number is around 846,000.

Benson says she’s asked the state Legislature to give local clerks more time to process those absentee ballots.

"Right now, they can’t begin that processing until election day itself, which is a very antiquated way of doing things. And it makes it more difficult for us to get our unofficial results out to the public after the polls close,” she said.

This is Michigan’s second election cycle since voters approved a 2018 measure that allows any voter to request an absentee ballot.

Voters have through the end of election day on August 2 to turn in an absentee ballot by hand.

In the meantime, local officials like Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum are preparing with training and equipment testing.

Byrum says everything is going smoothly, but she would like to see more funding for resources like security and technology.

“Whether it’s replying to mis- and dis-information or conducting our elections. We have more responsibilities, and we are not being funded adequately to fulfill all of those responsibilities,” Byrum said.

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