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Michigan Secretary of State

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will not give more time for a commission created to draw the state’s new political maps.

Tired of politicians drawing maps for Congressional seats and legislative districts, Michigan voters in 2018 decided to hand the job over to an independent commission.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Criticized for a massive backlog at local Secretary of State office branches, Secretary Jocelyn Benson says her department is taking steps to improve service.

Benson implemented an appointment-only system during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the change from a walk-in system has not been well received.

jocelyn benson at podium
michigan.gov

Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at addressing the backlog for appointments at Secretary of State offices. 

"We've never been in a situation where the Secretary of State's office has been forced to process a 13 month backlog on top of their normal business,” said State Rep. Julie Brixie of East Lansing, who spoke at a virtual press conference alongside Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified Thursday before a legislative committee about long wait times at branch offices and some possible remedies.

Benson told the House Oversight Committee the COVID-19 crisis helped put in sharp relief some long-standing problems.

the interior of a Michigan Secretary of State office
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State branch offices will not be going back to the old take-a-number-and-wait system. Due to the pandemic, offices have required an appointment.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says the people of Michigan have spoken and there’s no plan to go back to the old system.

michigan absentee ballot
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson put out guidance to county and local clerks for signature matching on absentee ballots in October, prior to the 2020 election. Now, a Court of Claims judge has ruled that guidance to be invalid.

In October, Benson said that a signature on an absentee ballot should be presumed valid unless it differed “in multiple, significant and obvious respects from the signature on file.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced her new legislative agenda for elections in a press conference Monday. The agenda calls for sweeping changes, many with the goal of making it easier for Michiganders to vote.

Many of the proposed changes focus on absentee ballots: they would require absentee ballot applications to be mailed every federal election cycle, require counting of ballots postmarked by Election Day and received shortly after to be counted, and allow the processing of absentee ballots to begin two weeks before Election Day.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court won’t hear a case challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to voters. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mass mailed the applications to registered voters across the state. A Highland Park activist, Robert Davis, sued because he was concerned the unsolicited applications were unlawful and candidates could challenge votes because of that.

persoon handle ballot to poll worker
Katie Raymond

Beyond the races, the candidates, and the rhetoric, Election Day featured logistical challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a surge of interest in the election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson joined Michigan Radio's Doug Tribou on Wednesday morning to talk about how things went at the polls and during the count so far.  

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
Unsplash

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
Wikimedia Commons/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.

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.

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