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New legislation would move Michigan towards a universal vote-by-mail system


A state senator is proposing Michigan follow the lead of five other states, by moving to a primarily vote-by-mail system, and limiting in-person voting. 

New legislation in the state senate would automatically send registered voters an application for an absentee ballot.

Five other states; Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado, have already moved towards a similar system.

Bill sponsor Democratic State Senator Jeff Irwin said vote-by-mail systems see higher participation, are safer, and cheaper.

“There is a ton of money that can be saved,” Irwin said. “Millions and millions of dollars can be saved every year and I think that is an important goal in state government particularly when we’re looking at a big-budget cliff.”

Irwin said his bill would greatly reduce the number of election workers that need to be trained and paid every year.

During the state’s May 5th elections Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson automatically sent out absentee ballot applications to registered voters. The move was intended to reduce the number of voters who needed to go out to the polls during the coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer also closed all but one polling location in each district.

Essentially, Senator Irwin’s legislation would make those changes standard for all state elections.

“We do retain the option for people to vote at their local clerk’s office because that’s important for disabled voters who sometimes require accommodations.”

He said the vote-by-mail system is especially important for the November election given the global pandemic.

“We certainly don’t want a situation this fall where voters are looking at important elections and are concerned about their health and the health of everyone in their community because of everyone gathering at these precincts.”

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said he has not had an opportunity to review the bill.