FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gabrielle Abbott, All Voting is Local, [email protected], 773-369-5358
Nick Dodge, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, [email protected], 616-796-4912
Elizabeth Battiste, Voters Not Politicians, [email protected], 248-404-7846
Ann Mullen, ACLU of Michigan, [email protected], 313-400-8562
Kenneth Williams, Detroit Action, [email protected], 313-525-6783
DETROIT — Michigan voters, voting rights experts, and advocates from All Voting is Local Michigan, Voters Not Politicians, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and Detroit Action shared their experiences from the August 4 primary and urged officials to prepare now to avoid voting problems and ensure voter safety, ahead of the general election.
More than 2.4 million people voted in Michigan’s primary election, and voters—particularly in Detroit—confronted polling place closures and a lack of poll workers. Voters who requested mailed ballots reported receiving their ballots too late to be returned by mail, or not at all.
An audio recording of the press briefing can be found here.
“While many aspects of this primary were a first—from the widespread use of vote-by-mail to COVID-19 pandemic concerns—there is no excuse for officials not mailing ballots on time, not adequately staffing polling places, and not informing voters of changes to the election,” said Aghogho Edevbie, Michigan state director for All Voting is Local. “Officials must prepare now so that Michigan voters are not once again burdened with needless barriers to the ballot and unsafe conditions in November.”
“My partner and I both made the easy decision to apply for our absentee ballots,” said Gabriela Alcazar, a Detroit voter. “We submitted our applications weeks ago. We live at the same address. And he got his early last week but I did not get mine until the day before the election. Not voting was not an option, but I was terrified for a while that I would be forced to go in-person on Election Day.”
“While many people chose to vote early this primary due to COVID-19, in-person voting has proven to still be a key way for many voters to cast their ballots,” said Clare Allenson, civic engagement director for Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “In order to make sure all Michiganders have full and equal access to the ballot box Michigan needs to double down on poll worker recruitment and education.”
“I requested my absentee ballot a couple months ago, and then about a week or two ago I started to get nervous that I hadn’t yet received it,” said Lucas Carroll, a New Buffalo voter, who didn’t receive a mailed ballot and voted in-person at his local clerk’s office on Monday. “I do worry that other students, other first time voters, other people who have been traditionally left out of the process will err on the side of caution and just not vote.”
“In order to ensure that we have a voting system that works for all voters, our election officials must take the necessary steps to ensure full and equal access to the ballot.” said Sharon Dolente, voting rights strategist for the ACLU of Michigan. “This must include expanding access to in-person voting before and on Election Day. I encourage all Michigan voters to learn about their voting rights, make a plan to vote and exercise their constitutional right to vote in-person at their clerk’s office starting 40 days before the November election.”
“While COVID-19 certainly exacerbated this election, the stakes were high long before,” said Branden Snyder, executive director of Detroit Action. “We, along with several organizations, have done our part through digitally organizing our Detroiters through online platforms. But we must be met halfway by officials. Not only is better communication needed but there needs to be better planning on training poll workers and educating voters about vote-by-mail.”
“The results from the primary show that Michigan voters are excited to exercise their right to vote by absentee for any reason,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “Our state legislature must take the necessary steps to ensure that voting is as easy, accessible, and as secure as possible. This means common sense reforms and funding to ensure voters have options to return their ballot by mail, at a secure drop box, or to their local clerk’s office; provide pre-paid postage for returning ballots by mail; and allow ballots to begin to be processed before Election Day.”