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Election workers needed to uphold democracy during coronavirus crisis
LANSING, MICH¬. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is seeking election workers to support elections amidst the coronavirus crisis. The May 5 local elections will be conducted primarily by mail, but election workers are needed to process and count ballots and staff clerk offices.
“Elections are the foundation of our democracy, and our nation has a long history of holding them even in times of crisis and uncertainty,” said Benson. “All election work will be done in strict adherence to the protocols to prevent coronavirus transmission, including exercising social distancing, using sanitary equipment, and maintaining strong hygiene.”
Some clerks have said that many of the election workers that have served them in the past are seniors and not willing to do so in May due to their increased vulnerability to the coronavirus. Secretary Benson and her administration are seeking to fill their places with younger and less vulnerable workers by reaching out to large employers, colleges and sports teams.
“Democracy is a team sport, and election workers are the most valuable players,” said Benson, alluding to the website where people can fill out an interest form to serve, Michigan.gov/DemocracyMVP.
All registered voters are eligible to serve as election workers statewide. (Those who are unregistered can do so at Michigan.gov/Vote.) Those who fill out the interest form will have their information shared with clerks who need assistance. If appointed to work, they will be paid for their time.
The local elections – many of which are on school district millages and bonds – are not taking place in all jurisdictions in May. Last month Secretary Benson asked clerks to urge the entities with questions slated for the May ballot to postpone them to the August election. About half of those entities did so. Others did not or could not, often because school funding would expire this summer.
Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order that will close all but one polling place – typically the clerk’s office – in each election jurisdiction. To encourage everyone who can to stay home and vote by mail, the Department of State will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, and all new registrations will be treated like an absentee ballot application, prompting the issuance of an absentee ballot.
“Voters like voting by mail because it is easy, private, and can be done on their own timing and while researching issues and candidates at home,” said Benson. “It also eliminates the possibility of coronavirus transmission for the voter and, with simple precautions like gloves and social distancing, the election workers as well. Finally, voting by mail is absolutely secure, as the signature matching requirement is a built-in security check.”
Clerk offices will remain open through Election Day, enabling same-day voter registration and voting in person, including for people with disabilities who wish to vote using assistive equipment, and others to drop off their ballots if they forget to mail it in time. Voter registration can also be done by mail or online at Michigan.gov/Vote through April 20. Between April 20 and May 5, new registrations must be accompanied by proof of residence, which can also be submitted by mail or electronically.
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