Jul 1, 2008
Groups push for no reason absentee voting
LANSING – With voter turnout at an anemic rate often below 25 percent across Michigan, logic says any attempt to improve that number in a country that prides itself on Democratic elections would be welcome, but that does not seem to be the case with no reason absentee voting.
Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus held a press conference Tuesday in front of the state Capitol surrounded by members of the Michigan Municipal Clerks Association (MMCA), various advocacy groups, working people and mothers. The message was simple: an absentee ballot any time, any place for any voter.
“Workers of the state don’t always know if they will be able to vote because they may have an extra shift or get called in to work on Election Day,” said Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor. “I go door-to-door all the time and have people tell me they're sorry but they can’t vote because they have to work.
“I also don’t want to see anyone disenfranchised because they can’t stand in that long line,” she said.
Brater introduced Senate Bill 12 that will allow no reason A/B voting way back when the legislative session opened in January 2007, but it has been bottled up in the Senate Committee on Campaign and Election Oversight. Brater hopes Michigan will join 28 other states that allow no reason A/B voting, and she hopes the ground swell of support, similar to the grassroots support that got the smoking ban bill out of committee, will work with SB 12.
“We urge you to contact Sen. (Michelle) McManus (Chair of the committee) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to urge them to take up the bill and give it a hearing,” she said.
Macomb County Clark Carmella Sabaugh recently made news when she was ordered by the Michigan Court of Appeals to stop sending A/B applications to every county resident age 60 or older.
“There is no reason for anyone not to be able to vote absentee,” she said. “The state can take your taxes by mail, why can’t you vote by mail?”
Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, Minority Vice-chair of the Campaign and Election Oversight Committee, praised Sabaugh’s actions.
“You have done some very courageous things in your county with absentee voting,” Jacobs said.
A/B voting will increase voter turnout, and people are hard-pressed to find a reason why anyone would be against no reason A/B voting. It is not a Democrat or Republican issue, but for some unknown reason some Republican so-called leaders are opposing it. Jacobs said in a recent U.S. Census survey, more than 7.5 million people said they did not vote because of “logistical reasons,” and in Macomb County voter turnout increased 40 percent after Sabaugh mailed out A/B applications to all senior citizens. It’s much cheaper to mail out an A/B ballot for the price of a 42-cent stamp than to pay $4.20 for a gallon of gas to drive to the poling place to stand in line and vote.
“People ask why anyone would be against no reason absentee voting: that’s a good question,” Jacobs said. “People say it will cause problems for clerks, but the clerks are here to say it doesn’t.”
Current Michigan law says the are only six reasons for A/B voting: age 60 years old or older, unable to vote without assistance at the polls, expecting to be out of town on election day, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons or are appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.
“We have all been in the situation when a voter comes into our offices to fill out a A/B application, and they freeze when they come to the part that asks for a reason,” said Evan Hope, the Vice-President of the MMCA and the Clerk in Delhi Charter Township.