GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, told 100-plus AARP Michigan volunteers at the organization’s “Rock the Vote” event in Lansing Thursday that voters should be confident in her office as the state nears its March 10 presidential primary.
“We’re ready, we’re good and we’re secure,” Benson declared.
The first-term Secretary acknowledged that a record number of absentee ballots, many new election rules and other factors may be challenging.
But she said ballot security is not a serious threat.
“Elections in Michigan are more secure than ever before,” Benson said.
She noted that the state has hired its first-ever full-time elections security director, and her department has worked extensively with local clerks.
Asked about the possibility of computer hackers tampering with voting results, Benson said: “They are trying to hack the minds of voters, but they can’t hack our machines.”
One volunteer asked the Secretary about the possibility of long lines on Election Day due to high turnout. She replied that the highest-ever number of people voting absentee should keep the wait to vote in person from being too lengthy.
Due to election changes triggered by a 2018 ballot initiative, this is the first year voters will be able to cast absentee ballots for any reason. Absentee voters used to have to give one of six reasons to be eligible to vote absentee. Local clerks are reporting record numbers of people applying for absentee ballots.
Another key change is the ability to register to vote right up to Election Day. There are no more registration deadlines. But Benson reminded unregistered voters they cannot walk into local precincts and cast ballots on Election Day. They most go to the local clerk’s office to register, and then they can vote right on the spot.
An AARP volunteer asked: “I already voted absentee, but then I watched a presidential primary debate and I’ve changed my mind. Can I have my ballot erased and vote again?”
Yes, Benson said. Those who change their minds or perhaps their candidate dropped out of the race “have the opportunity by Monday at 4 p.m. the day before the election to spoil your ballot and vote again.” This must be done at the local clerk’s office.
It’s also OK to vote absentee if you’re a first-time voters. The old rules required Michiganders to vote in person the first time out.
Benson emphasized that voters must take the time to learn the election rule changes to fully exercise their new rights.
“The new rights are not effective unless people are educated,” she said.
She urged all Michiganders to “be that voice of educating your colleagues, friends, family and co-workers.”
Benson also called on citizens to apply at their local clerk’s office to be poll workers.
Finally, she encouraged people to “cut through the rhetoric” and ask questions about sources of information.
Have a question? Call the election protection hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE.
(Sponsored by AARP Michigan)