Millions of Michigan residents will receive applications in their mailboxes for absentee voting, state officials announced Tuesday.
Michigan, a crucial swing state, has 7.7 million registered voters, 1.3 million of whom are on the permanent absentee ballot list.
The applications will allow residents to take part in elections later this year without voting in person, state Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“No Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” said Benson. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”
The application asks people if they’re a U.S. citizen and a qualified voter. Applicants can choose whether to receive an absentee ballot for the August 4 state election, the November 3 national election, or both.
The three-page document (pdf) includes a warning telling people who are not citizens that they cannot vote.
One page is a cover letter from Benson telling residents that they have the right to vote by mail in every election.
Applicants were told to sign the form before taking a photograph that clearly shows the signature and submit it via email. The other method is mailing or dropping the signed form off to their local clerk.
Some jurisdictions began mailing the applications previously, Benson said, before the choice was made to send them to all registered voters.
The new plan will cost $4.5 million, which will come from money the state is getting from the federal government through a virus relief package passed in March, Michigan Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow told Bridge.
Voters Not Politicians, a group working to get more people to vote, applauded the move and called for the state legislature to authorize sending absentee ballots, not applications, to voters.
“Automatically sending ballots with pre-paid return postage will cut the red tape, save money, and empower all Michiganders to vote safely in this year’s elections,” Nancy Wang, the executive director, said in a statement.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) also applauded Benson’s decision.
President Donald Trump, a Republican who narrowly won Michigan in 2016, has voiced objections to widespread voting by mail.
“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans,” he said in a statement last month.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday that the issue is with absentee ballots, not applications.
The Michigan GOP, reached Tuesday, said a spokesperson would return the call later.
Michigan altered voting rules in 2018 to let anyone vote by absentee ballot without providing a reason. Absentee voting in the March primary increased from 18 percent in 2016 to 38 percent this year.
Turnout in the 50 elections held across 33 counties in May included 99 percent of people participating voting by mail or in a drop box, Benson said. The percent of eligible voters who participated was 25 percent, a jump from the average turnout in the past decade of 12 percent.