State: More absentee ballots already cast than in 2016 primary


UNDATED (WOOD) — The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office says the number of absentee ballots returned for the Aug. 4 presidential primary has already surpassed the total number for the 2016 primary.

In a Wednesday release, the SoS said that with 14 days left to the election, 607,079 ballots had already been returned. Some 1,842,866 ballots were sent to voters.

Fourteen days before the 2016 primary, about 510,800 ballots had been issued and 215,500 sent back. In all, by election day 2016, returned absentee ballots numbered 484,094.

It is worth noting that this year, unlike for elections past, the SoS worked to send out absentee ballot applications to every single one of Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters. The state is encouraging absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic as it urges people to stay away from large gatherings.

Additionally, this is the first presidential election cycle since Michigan residents approved voting changes to make it easier to cast ballots absentee.

>>Online: Michigan Election and Voter Information Center

While President Donald Trump has railed against absentee voting, arguing it will lead to fraud and a “rigged” election, experts say that’s simply not true.

“…To my knowledge, there is no evidence in the academic literature to suggest there’s widespread mail fraud ongoing. Some additional research that has just come out, just in the last few weeks, has again confirmed all of the other studies that I’m familiar with and found, which is that it’s a minor issue at best, and that’s probably a bit of a hyperbole,” political scientist and University of Michigan Professor Vincent Hutchings told News 8 earlier this month.

He noted we’re seeing a “very unusual set of circumstances because of the pandemic” and acknowledged the large number of absentee ballots may slow the counting process.

Michigan requires a valid signature on absentee ballot applications to verify them and prevent fraud.

You still have plenty of time to send in your absentee ballot: It must be received by Aug. 4. You can also still request an absentee ballot by going to the state’s website or going to your city clerk’s office.

In-person voting will be available on election day. The SoS is looking for more volunteers to work, especially since polling place workers are often older and therefore at higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19. Workers will get personal protection equipment and voters are strongly encouraged, though not required, to wear masks when voting.

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