SOS: ‘We’re just trying to educate people on their rights’


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Secretary of State is answering questions about absentee voter applications being mailed to registered voters.

The state made the move last month. News 8 has received questions from viewers who say they have received applications for people who no longer live at their address or are deceased.

“Our statewide mailing of voter applications for people to vote by mail was the first statewide mailing that was done to our qualified voter file list in 9.5 years. So understandably, there are going to be some instances in which someone has moved or has passed away and we need your help in gathering that information so that we can use it to ensure the accuracy of the list. It’s actually a secondary goal and benefit from doing this mailing,” MI Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told News 8 Tuesday.

In theory, 7.7 million registered voters could vote by mail in August and November if they fill out the application and return it to their local clerk for a ballot. A right every Michigan voter now has after passing Proposal 3 in 2018 with nearly 67% of the vote.

If you’re mailed an application that is for someone else, you’re asked to return it.

“We do want you to return it to your local clerk. You can also, to return it, you can just pop it back in the mail,” Benson explained as the return-to-sender option. “It helps if you write on the message, you know, if someone has moved or is deceased, so we can then use that information to verify that person’s ineligibility and remove them.”

Benson acknowledged other political groups or candidates may mail applications out separately. She recommended returning the official application from the local clerk or state, but any application works to request an absentee ballot.

“Importantly, no ballot is sent to anyone unless the signature on the request matches the signature on the voter registration and then no ballot is counted unless the envelope that ballot is returned in has a signature on it that matches all the other signatures,” Benson added. “So that’s our way of verifying that the person requesting and returning the ballot actually is an eligible voter is alive and is registered to vote in our state.”

As for criticism that the mailing is a waste of money?

“Look, we’re just trying to educate people on their rights and voices and people, of course, are more than able to exercise their choices as they see fit,” Benson said. “No one’s required to vote by mail.”

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