Photo by Susan Montgomery via Shutterstock

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on May 19 that every registered voter in the state of Michigan would be sent an absent voter ballot application, which would give everyone an opportunity to vote by mail whether they requested a ballot or not. 

“Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it”, Benson said, adding that “no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

In previous elections, the option to vote by mail was reserved for citizens who met at least one of six different criteria: the voter is over the age of 60, will not be in town on Election Day, has a physical disability, is working as a precinct inspector, religious beliefs, or is in jail awaiting trial. 

The total number of ballots cast on Aug. 4 was around 2.5 million and  over half, equating to1.6 million, were mail-in-ballots. 

Despite a record number of casted votes, Michigan faced numerous obstacles that left the state unprepared for what the November election would look like. 

Some poll stations were unable to open as scheduled due to a large number of poll workers not showing up for their assigned shifts, or traveling to the wrong location. 

When poll workers’ lack of training and communication were questioned, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey assured the state that while it is always challenging to arrange an event with over 3,000 people, the training was not to blame. 

“We have to believe it’s because of COVID,” Winfrey said as she referred back to the steps that were taken in preparation for the absentee ballot changes and the challenges of an election in a pandemic. 

During the primaries, 10,600 ballots were rejected with 8,600 attributed to invalid signatures and ballots that arrived after the 8 p.m.deadline. 

Eight hundred and forty-six ballots were rejected due to the voter being deceased, but in a response to an outraged tweet from Donald Trump Jr., Benson assured the country that the rejected ballots were not an instance of voter fraud but votes that “were cast by eligible Michigan voters who died after casting their ballots but before Election Day.”

Forty-six percent of Detroit’s precincts had a discrepancy in the number of ballots counted versus  the number of ballots recorded in precinct poll books. 

In Michigan, the law is clear that if after an investigation a cause for the discrepancy is not found and the number of counted ballots doesn’t match the poll books by 1 ballot, the county is ineligible for a recount and the original result stands.  

When investigating the counties, mismatched ballot counts determined that many of the errors were caused by human error and not fraud. Winfrey called on the legislature to allow absentee ballots to begin processing before Election Day.

Some election workers spent over 20 hours counting ballots, which Winfrey said contributed to problems. 
In a meeting to discuss the election problems, Michigan Elections Director Jonathan Brater said they were going to “drill down on exactly what the cause of these issues was and what we need to do to prevent them for November.”

Written ByKarissa Leuschen

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