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Secretary Benson, Genesee County Sheriff highlight voting rights for Michigan returning citizens and eligible jail residents on National Voter Registration Day
September 19, 2023
FLINT, Mich. – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson joined Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, other local officials, and democracy advocates today at the Genesee County Jail to celebrate National Voter Registration Day.
Benson and Swanson highlighted successful efforts to ensure voting access for returning citizens and eligible Michiganders residing in county jails. Residents from the Genesee County Jail’s Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education (I.G.N.I.T.E.) program were also on hand to learn about their constitutional right to vote and how to register.
“Today, on National Voter Registration Day, I encourage all eligible Michiganders to register to vote,” said Secretary Benson. “Whether you are a 17 and a half-year-old first-year student on a college campus, an older Michigander living in a retirement community, or a returning citizen – your vote is your voice. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in partnership with Sheriff Swanson and other county sheriffs to ensure that eligible Michigan citizens in their care can register to vote and cast their ballot.”
“I stand with those who have the right to use their voice by casting a ballot,” said Sheriff Swanson. “It’s our American right.”
In 2020, the Michigan Department of State (MDOS) launched a partnership with the Michigan Department of Corrections to ensure that newly paroled Michiganders would receive a state ID or driver’s license at the time of their release. The program has been incredibly successful – with over 95 percent of parolees returning home with their State of Michigan ID or driver’s license.
In three years, more than 15,000 returning citizens have secured their state ID or driver’s license through the program and are also eligible to update their voter registration and vote. Under the new program, MDOS has gone from conducting about 400 transactions per year for returning citizens statewide to an average of more than 5,000 per year.
Building on that success, Secretary Benson launched a similar partnership with sheriffs in Genesee, Kent, Ingham, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. Many residents at these jails are still eligible to register and vote under Michigan law, so long as they are not serving a sentence in the county jail. Benson cited Sheriff Swanson as a leader in Michigan and nationally in ensuring access to jail-based voting.
“Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of our country,” said Genesee County Clerk/Register of Deeds Domonique Clemons. “It is important that everyone has their voice heard. As Genesee County Clerk/Register, I am committed to ensuring every eligible citizen has an easy and secure path to cast their ballot and that absolutely includes our citizens housed in jail awaiting trial, as well as our returning citizens.”
“Knowing that there has been limited voter participation for those detained, due to an inability to contact the Board of Elections or secure an absentee ballot, I am excited that incarcerated individuals in our Wayne County Jails will be educated and provided with an opportunity to cast their vote,” said Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington.
“Voting is not the fabric of America, but the thread to all things, for all people,” said Genesee County Deputy Sheriff Percy Glover. “People residing in jail in Michigan have the constitutional right to access our electoral process.”
“If your vote didn't matter, there wouldn't be a multi-million-dollar operation to deprive you of it,” said Deon Davidson, regional organizer of Black Voters Matter Michigan.
National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating American democracy. Since its establishment in 2012, more than 5 million voters have been registered on National Voter Registration Day.
Michiganders can check their registration status online and register to vote at Michigan.gov/Vote.
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Secretary Benson and Sheriff Swanson celebrated National Voter Registration Day at the Genesee County Jail.
Genesee County Deputy Sheriff Percy Glover, Secretary Benson, Sheriff Swanson
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, Deon Davidson - Black Voters Matter, Moses Bingham - Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Genesee County Clerk/Register of Deeds Domonique Clemons, E.B. Jordan - S&D PJ Housing, Wayne County Deputy Sheriff David Felton, Genesee County Deputy Sheriff Percy Glover
Secretary Benson met residents participating in the Genesee County Jail I.G.N.I.T.E. program who are eligible to register to vote.