Senator Irwin introduces bill to establish vote-by-mail system

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation today to increase voter turnout, save money on elections, and that is supported by a bipartisan majority of Michigan voters. 

Senate Bill 909 would expand voting opportunities in Michigan by establishing a universal, vote-by-mail system that would also end in-person voting at precincts. Under this system, every registered voter would be able to return their ballot through the mail or drop it off at a local, designated drop site, and all voting would be done via absentee ballots. Same-day registration would be facilitated by requiring all clerks to remain open to accept voter registration forms and ballot returns. 

“Voting by mail will make voting less expensive, easier for voters, and more secure,” Sen. Irwin said. “This system will save money and give voters more time to consider down-ballot races or proposals that may be complicated, or not explained well, by the ballot language.”  

Universal vote-by-mail is already the law in five other states — Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii — where they have seen increases in voter turnout and participation, while also saving millions of dollars per election cycle from reduced costs to election administration. 

SB 909 would emulate these states’ voting systems and similarly save millions of dollars in election administration costs for the State of Michigan and local municipalities. Some of the direct savings could be rolled into additional election security and auditing, but local clerks would benefit in other ways, such as not having to find as many precinct locations and recruit as many poll workers. Recruiting and retaining trained election workers is always costly and challenging, and depending on global progress against COVID-19, that could be especially difficult in 2020. 

“Voting by mail and from home with absentee ballots is already a proven, secure system that has been used by millions of voters, including people serving in our military and those who simply like to vote at their kitchen table,” Sen. Irwin said. “Improving Michigan’s voting system makes sense anytime, but it is especially urgent to prepare for the impact that COVID-19 may have on recruiting election workers and on public sentiment toward voters gathering at physical polling locations. Since there is a cheaper, easier way to vote, let’s do it now.”

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