Michigan residents could vote via absentee ballots for any reason under election reforms proposed by Republicans last week, but because the package requires voters to pick up their ballots in person, the change might not make it much easier for some people to vote.
Under the current rules a voter can only get an absentee ballot if they certify that they are 60 or older, expect to be away while polls are open, are physically unable to get to the polls, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, can’t attend for religious reasons, or will be working as a election official in another precinct. People who vote absentee for these reasons can order their ballots by mail or online. About a quarter of all votes in the last two general elections were cast on absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Democrats, voting rights advocates and local election officials have long pushed for no-reason absentee voting as a way to make it easier for more people to participate in elections. Under laws proposed by Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc Township) and Rep. Cindy Denby (R-Handy Township) last week all voters would qualify to vote absentee but if they don’t claim one of the already-permitted reasons they would have to pick it up the ballot in person and show photo ID at their local clerk’s office.
Jan BenDor, former Pittsfield township deputy clerk and spokesperson for the Michigan Election Reform Alliance, questions why certain groups of absentee voters should be treated differently.
“Is there a problem with voters who request absent voter ballots doing so fraudulently?” she asks. “What evidence is there? Why would ‘no-reason’ AVs present a new problem of fraud?”