Michigan voters are voting via absentee ballot in increasingly high numbers. In the November 2016 election, approximately one-fourth of Michigan voters used an absentee ballot to case their votes. In the August 2016 primary election, that number was even higher in many counties. In Kent County, 43 percent of votes were cast via absentee ballots; in Grand Rapids, 40 percent of votes were absentee; in Ottawa County, roughly one-third of voters voted via an absentee ballot. Though absentee voting in Michigan is increasingly more common, Michigan requires voters to check off on their absentee application and ballot a reason they cannot vote in person at a polling station on Election Day. According to Michigan Election Law §168.758 and the Michigan Secretary of State, a voter registered in Michigan may only vote via absentee ballot if the voter is: (1) sixty years old or older; (2) unable to vote without assistance at the polls; (3) expecting to be out of town on election day; (4) in jail awaiting arraignment or trial; (5) unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons; or (6) appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of his or her precinct.
Many Michigan elected officials are advocating for the abolition of this requirement in order to encourage more absentee voting. Twenty-seven other states currently offer this “no-excuse” absentee voting. Bills proposing a Michigan “no-excuse” absentee voting rule have been introduced in the most recent session of Michigan state legislature, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has publicly declared his support of a “no-excuse” absentee voting rule. The “no-excuse” absentee voting initiative, however, was linked with a straight-ticket ballot bill in the Michigan state legislature that Republicans in the state legislature voted down. Though the “no-excuse” absentee voting bill was introduced by a Republican state representative and is supported by Republican Governor Snyder, Republican majority leaders in the state Senate oppose removing absentee voting restrictions.