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Michigan Secretary of State

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

With one week to go before Election Day, a Secretary of State office spokesman says two out of every three absentee ballots Michiganders requested have already been returned to local clerk’s offices.

straight-party voting
Lars Plougmann

More than half of the three million requested absentee ballots have already been cast, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Benson said that voters have received nearly all of the three million absentee ballots they have requested with two weeks left to go before Election Day. 

"When you reflect on the fact that just under 4.8 million voted in the November 2016 election, the fact that two weeks out, already three million are on track to vote early in this election is just extraordinary," said Benson, predicting that the number of absentee ballot requests will continue to climb.

A maks on top of an absentee ballot envelope
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In the middle of a pandemic, a lot of voters are planning to cast their vote via absentee ballot. It's a fairly simple process (which you can learn more about here). You fill out your ballot, put it in the mail, track it to your local clerk’s office where it will be counted come Election Day. But between November 2018 and August 2020, the ACLU of Michigan says there were around 35,000 people who thought they had voted, but actually had their absentee ballots rejected. The organization has been sending letters out to those voters to let them know what went wrong, and how to avoid it this time around. 

straight-party voting
Lars Plougmann

The Michigan Secretary of State is making priority appointments available for people who are getting their first state driver's licenses. They can register to vote at the same time. 

But the agency says people can register to vote even without a driver's license.  

REAL ID driver's license
Michigan Secretary of State

The extension given to drivers for license renewals is about to run out.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of State’s office extended the deadlines for renewal of driver’s licenses and registrations.

That all ends on September 30th.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

The Michigan Department of State is notifying millions of potential Michigan voters how to register and cast ballots in the November election. The mailings are expected to arrive in people's mailboxes within a week or so, according to the Department's press release.

Letters are on their way to about 700,000 Michiganders who have a Michigan driver's license or state ID and who are eligible to vote but not yet registered in Michigan. The letters explain how to register and how to apply for an absentee ballot.

congressional map of Michigan
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The state is moving forward with preparations for redistricting following the passage of Proposal 2 in 2018. The ballot initiative established the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which is tasked with redrawing Michigan’s congressional districts based on the 2020 census. Thirteen people—none of whom are political officeholders—were randomly chosen for the commission, which will be overseen by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The COVID-19 pandemic made “business as usual” at the Secretary of State’s offices impossible. Instead of walking in to renew license plate tags, people have been making appointments. Some of those appointments are months away.

The renewal extension that was implemented is running out on September 30. So, months away is no longer going to work.

ballot box
April Baer / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey have formed what they call a “partnership” to help run Detroit’s November election more smoothly.

Detroit had some election troubles during the August primary. There was a mismatch between electronic poll book entries and voter tallies in many precincts, particularly absentee voter ones. That led to calls for Benson to step in and make sure Winfrey’s office could handle things in November.

Polling station sign
user jaina / Creative Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted a motion for immediate consideration in a lawsuit filed by three Detroit residents, seeking to force the Michigan Secretary of State and Michigan Elections Director to train Detroit's city clerk and its election workers.

The lawsuit was filed after serious problems occurred in the city's August primary. The count in 46% of Detroit precincts did not match the number of ballots in poll books. That means they could not have been  recounted in the event of a recount. 

an absentee ballot on an envelope
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

A Michigan Court of Claims judge has ruled Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was allowed to send every voter in the state an application to vote absentee instead of in-person. The judge rejected a legal challenge that said Benson, a Democrat, acted outside her authority as the state’s top elections official.

The ruling says the mailing sent to 7.7 million voters before the August primary did not infringe on the Legislature’s lawmaking authority. It says that’s because Benson was executing the will of voters who adopted no-reason absentee voting in 2018.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A letter is fueling a dispute over how the city of Flint handles elections.

After the August primary, Genesee County Election Supervisor Doreen Fulcher sent a letter to Flint City Clerk Inez Brown outlining problems with how the city processed votes. The letter was sent from County Clerk John Gleason’s office. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is calling on the Legislature to change the law to allow mailed in ballots to be counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day. Right now, if a ballot is received after 8 p.m. Election Day, it’s not counted. In the recent primary election, Benson said many voters were disenfranchised because of the current law.

That's 6,400 voters who did everything right. They mailed their ballots in on time. It was postmarked prior to Election Day. And yet because of our law, they were not able to be counted,” Benson said.

Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she will send out postcards to nearly four and a half million registered voters, starting next week, to inform them they are eligible to vote by mail, and explain how to do it.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's city clerk is defending her office’s handling of absentee ballot applications ahead of the next month’s primary election.

This month, the ACLU alleged the Flint City Clerk needed to speed up the processing of absentee ballot requests. A judge ordered the clerk’s office to clear a backlog of applications.

Flint City Clerk Inez Brown says more than 11,000 requests have been processed and nearly a third of the primary ballots have been returned.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 1.8 million Michiganders have requested absentee ballots, about two weeks before the August 4 primary.

607,079 absentee ballots have already been returned. Only 484,094 absentee ballots were cast in the 2016 August primary.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Many Michigan voters plan to stay home for the August primary, but they're still planning to vote.

Clerks around the state have already received more than 1.3 million absentee ballot applications. That's a million more ballots than were requested a month before the 2016 August primary.

REAL ID driver's license
Michigan Secretary of State

A new state policy makes it faster and easier for people to get a Michigan ID or driver’s license that matches their gender identity.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the policy change Monday.

Kai Pilger / Unsplash

A package of three bills (H.B. 4486, H.B. 4775, and H.B.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State

The passage of Proposal 3 last November means any registered voter in the state can now request an absentee ballot. It seems like Michigan residents are taking full advantage of that. 

Last week's election saw a huge uptick in the number of people who voted absentee. And that has put some county clerks in a time crunch as they work to count a flood of absentee ballots.

ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Michigan voters are free to take a picture of their ballot before they leave a voting booth.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has settled a 2016 lawsuit that challenged a ban on so-called ballot selfies. The ban on displaying completed ballots has been around since 1891.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Secretary of State says it’s time to modernize her department’s 131 branch offices.

Jocelyn Benson spent the past few months visiting each office in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. 

She says she didn’t like what she saw.

“Too often people need to wait in line too long to have their business done with the Secretary of State’s office,” Benson told reporters at a news conference in Detroit Thursday. “It is unacceptable and it needs to change.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Local Secretary of State offices around Michigan and the department’s online services will be getting a major computer upgrade this weekend.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson plans to challenge a new law that could make it tougher to collect signatures to initiate legislation or ballot proposals.

Previously, organizers collected signatures by county with no limit on how many could be gathered.

The new law limits the number of signatures that organizers can collect from voters in any given congressional district.

Teacher standing and writing at a chalk board.
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Today on Stateside, the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Superintendents and Administrators talks about how Michigan school districts are responding after a company that provides substitute teachers to more than 100 Michigan districts abruptly closed its offices. Plus, we hear from the Republican and Democratic candidates for Michigan’s next Secretary of State.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

jocelyn benson and mary treder lang
Benson for Secretary of State / Mary Treder Lang for Secretary of State

In the state of Michigan, the Secretary of State oversees public notaries, vehicle registration and automotive licensing, and, perhaps most importantly, serves as the state’s chief elections officer. 

This November, Michiganders will vote to replace incumbent Ruth Johnson (R), who cannot run again due to term limits. Election security and how to best preserve the integrity of Michigan votes are key issues in this race. 

Photo courtesy of Trinea Gonczar

Today on Stateside, we hear the first episode of Believed. It's a podcast series produced by Michigan Radio and NPR that explores how former sports doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused patients for more than 20 years. Plus, an interview with the series’ co-hosts, Michigan Radio reporters Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

man driving a car
PxHere / Creative Commons

The Office of the Secretary of State says it expects long lines today as it eliminates driver responsibility fees.

The fees were a penalty in addition to tickets from driving infractions. Those fees could cost drivers upwards of $ 1,000 every year. Drivers who couldn’t pay had their licenses suspended.

Ballots
Flicker / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state's voting system needs to be improved to ensure that overseas military ballots are received on time and counted, according to Jocelyn Benson, Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State.

Benson unveiled her military voting plan Tuesday, as part of her pledge "to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Absentee ballots will start arriving in Michigan mailboxes in the next few weeks. One county clerk is predicting confusion.

Genesee County Clerk John Gleason says about half his county’s voters routinely use the straight party ticket option, but starting this fall that won’t be an option.

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