May Elections To Be Mostly By Mail, Whitmer Says

Jurisdictions holding elections May 5 for school and local government millage questions and other matters must maintain at least one location on Election Day where voters can cast ballots in person, but county and municipal clerks should plan for most voting to take place via absentee ballots cast by mail, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered tonight.

In Executive Order 2020-27, Ms. Whitmer said the COVID-19 pandemic makes the large gatherings of voters that take place at polling precincts a threat for transmission of the highly contagious disease and put voters and poll workers at unacceptably high risk of getting ill.

The order calls for the May 5 elections to be “conducted to the greatest extent possible by absent voter ballots issued and without in-person interaction.” Ms. Whitmer also said clerks and election administrators must prepare postage prepaid absent voter ballot return envelopes for the return of voted ballots.

Ms. Whitmer suspended the portion of the Michigan Election Law regarding the withdrawal of a ballot question to allow local governments to withdraw ballot questions they had put on the May 5 ballot.

“While we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to encourage Michiganders to stay home and stay safe,” Ms. Whitmer said in a statement. “The fewer people we have lining up at polling places the better, ensuring Michiganders safely practice social distancing while allowing them to safely exercise their right to vote in local elections.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had said she was sending absentee ballot applications to all voters in the jurisdictions with May 5 elections.

Forty of the 100 jurisdictions that had proposals slated for the May 5 ballot had postponed those votes to the August election.

“I am grateful to Governor Whitmer for recognizing the critical need to protect public health while ensuring Michigan citizens are able to exercise their fundamental right as voters in our democracy,” Ms. Benson said in a statement. “Our sharpest tool to ensure citizens do not have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health is the constitutional right they have to vote by mail, which voters themselves enshrined in our state constitution in 2018.”

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