Benson promotes absentee voting in DNC speech

By: - August 21, 2020 6:43 am

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson addresses the DNC, Aug. 20, 2020

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson promoted absentee voting as safe and secure during a speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.

“Secretaries of state are responsible for running fair, accessible, secure elections where every vote is counted and every voice is heard. We serve on the frontlines defending our democracy against any and all attacks, foreign and domestic,” Benson said.

Under a constitutional amendment Michigan voters approved in 2018, all citizens can vote absentee. Michigan has seen record-breaking turnout in the May and August elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a sharp rise in mail-in voting.

Benson’s speech, which was given along with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, comes as the President Donald Trump administration has implemented big changes at the United States Postal Service (USPS) to slow down the rate at which mail goes through the system, which the president has said are intended to make mail-in voting more difficult during a global pandemic.

“Let’s be clear: there is absolutely zero difference between voting by mail and voting absentee. Millions of Americans have been voting absentee for decades. Donald Trump, his family, his staff – they all vote by mail,” Benson said. “Republicans and Democrats agree: It is safe.”

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced on Tuesday that he would suspend operational changes to the postal service until after the general elections in November. But reports from a post office in Grand Rapids on Wednesday showed a dismantled mail sorting machine in the parking lot.

Attorney General Dana Nessel joined with 12 other states in filing a lawsuit against the USPS earlier this week with the support of Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Nessel cited the reports out of Grand Rapids as a reason why they moved forward with the lawsuit despite DeJoy’s letter.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) launched an investigation into the reported shipping delays earlier this month, and DeJoy is expected to testify to Congress on Friday.

Benson is one of several Michigan officials who were featured at the Democratic National Convention this week.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave a short speech on Monday evening, in which she touted the administration of former President Barack Obama bailing out the auto industry.

State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) was one of 17 “rising stars” tapped to deliver the party’s keynote address on Tuesday, and Peters was featured with UAW Secretary-Treasurer Roy Curry during the roll call vote to officially nominate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Other Michigan leaders – like Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) – appeared during virtual pre-shows targeted at Michigan voters ahead of the main convention programming.

Michigan voters are able to request their absentee ballots online here for the November general election beginning Thursday.

“If you’re planning to vote from home, request and return your absentee ballot early, and remind everyone you know to make a plan to vote,” Benson said.

More than 1.6 million people voted absentee in the August primary, accounting for more than half of the 2.5 million people who voted.

Michigan voters are able to vote absentee with no reason after voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 to guarantee the right.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.