DETROITAll Voting is Local Michigan and leading medical professionals today called on Michigan state and local officials to enact necessary reforms to the upcoming elections to safeguard public health amid the pandemic. 

In a telephone press briefing, the panel discussed the urgent need for expanding voting options in Michigan, including: prepaid postage for mail-in ballots, expanded early voting through more satellite polling locations and hours, and increased sanitization and personal protective equipment standards for poll workers and in-person voters.

A recording of the briefing can be found here

“Increased communication between officials and voters is crucial to protecting our democracy and public health,” said Aghogho Edevbie, Michigan state director of All Voting is Local. “Between now and November 3, officials must do everything in their power to not only expand voting options, but also inform voters of the different ways to participate safely in our elections.”

“People of color, seniors, and those with underlying health concerns have been at greater risk from COVID-19, so it’s imperative that they be aware of the safe, secure ways to exercise their right to vote,” said Farhan Bhatti, MD, a family physician in Lansing, and Michigan state lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare. “As a physician, I want to encourage Michigan residents to vote by mail to make their voices heard while promoting their health and that of the public.”

“There should be no doubt that voting by mail is a safe and secure way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, but for those who want or need to vote in person, it’s imperative that we have measures in place to ensure polling locations are safe for workers and voters,” said Dr. Rob Davidson, MD, an emergency physician in West Michigan, and executive director of the Committee To Protect Medicare. “We ask that clerks put these protections, such as reduced wait times and proper PPE, in place, and that voters continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance to remain safe.”

“As a nurse, I know that democracy and public health are not mutually exclusive,” said Katie Pontifex, RN and board member of the Michigan Nurses Association. “We should all take advantage of the options that make it possible for voters to be as safe as possible. Whether it is voting by mail or taking precautions when voting in person, it’s important not to let the pandemic keep all of us from making our voices heard.”