Susan J. Demas
Oakland, the state’s second-largest county by population, is offering prepaid return postage for all mail-in ballots used by its constituents in the November general election.
The Oakland County Board of Commissioners made the announcement on Monday.
The board plans to do that by using up to $575,000 from the Oakland Together Local Government Partnership program, which was created when the county received federal aid from the CARES Act for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has seen a surge in constituents using mail-in ballots this year. More than 1.8 million absentee ballots have been requested and more than 600,000 returned ahead of the Aug. 4 state primary, according to the secretary of state’s office. In contrast, only 484,094 mail-in ballots were cast in the 2016 primary.
The increase comes amid continued concerns about the safety of in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan voters in 2018 approved Proposal 3, which amended the state Constitution to add eight policies expanding access to voting, including no-reason absentee voting.
Oakland County says it is the first county in Michigan to cover postage costs for absentee ballots.
“We applaud Oakland County for doing the right thing. To ensure an accessible democracy, no voter should pay to cast their ballot,” said Aghogho Edevbie, the director for Michigan’s chapter of voting rights advocate organization All Voting is Local.
“If our second largest county — with nearly 1 million registered voters — can agree to provide prepaid return postage on mailed ballots, other jurisdictions in Michigan must do the same,” he added.
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