by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Michigan’s former top elections official said that Democrats’ decision to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to nearly 8 million voters may violate state laws.
Former Republican secretary of state Ruth Johnson said her successor, Democrat Jocelyn Benson, may have made an “illegal” decision that “threatens the integrity of elections” by ordering state officials to distribute millions of mail-in ballot applications. Benson’s decision contradicted legal precedent and the secretary of state’s own election manual, which mandates that “clerks may not mail absentee voter applications without having received a verbal or written request,” according to Johnson.
“For decades, getting applications to voters has been the job of local clerks. What Benson is doing is possibly illegal—I think it is,” Johnson told the Washington Free Beacon. “It oversteps and threatens the integrity of our elections.”
President Donald Trump criticized Benson’s decision in a May tweet, calling her a “rogue Secretary of State.” While the comment received pushback from Democrats, local and state officials have expressed concerns that expanded mail-in voting opens the door to fraud in an important swing state. Allegan County clerk Bob Genetski (R.) told the Free Beacon that Benson has “made it a lot easier for people to take advantage of the system” by circumventing local election officials who have a specialized knowledge of voters in their area. He called the situation “extremely frustrating,” saying that state officials are not well-positioned to prevent fraud.
“My local clerks know their voters, they know the areas in their districts, and the state does not,” he said. “Nobody was asking the state to take this over, and it’s very concerning the direction things are going.”
Benson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.