Amid a global pandemic, as clerks across the state are preparing for upcoming elections in August and November, there is one thing I want the people I serve to know.
No matter the realities of COVID-19, come election time, no registered voter in Traverse City has to risk their health to cast a ballot. They can vote from the safety of their own home.
When Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal 3 in 2018, it amended the state constitution to create automatic registration, same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting. I am glad we did because whether people are elderly, at greater risk to COVID-19 or are simply fearful of becoming sick, they should have peace of mind that comes with knowing that voting will not jeopardize their health.
While mailing in an absentee ballot is unfamiliar to many voters, the process is proven, efficient and secure. And amid the COVID-19 crisis, it is the safest option available. The reality is, no one knows if there will be a resurgence of the virus. What we do know is there will not be a vaccine available prior to the upcoming elections.
In the best interest of voters in our city and statewide, I am working with VoteSafe Michigan, a bipartisan coalition of voting experts, elected officials, health care professionals, and community leaders who support accessible, secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites.
That effort is two-fold. First, ensure that voters know it is their constitutional right in Michigan to vote via mail and raise awareness that the process is safe and secure so they can pursue that option if they wish.
Second, we need to ensure local clerks have the resources needed to process the increased number of absentee ballots expected. There will also be a greater need for PPE and other resources to protect the well-being of election workers and voters alike for those who choose to vote in person.
Given the strain on local and state governments throughout Michigan, we must call attention to the fact that safeguarding our election and the right to vote is going to require additional federal funding.
We encourage voters to learn more about voting via absentee ballot and to complete an application online if they have not yet. In the meantime, we will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure those wishing to vote in person can do so safely.
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and something we as election officials were elected to protect. In 2020, our job is to protect the elections from COVID-19. It’s a duty I take seriously as do my colleagues across the state.
About the author: Benjamin Marentette served as city clerk for the City of Traverse City since September 2011. He essentially serves as chief operating officer for a city government with total cash flow exceeding $150 million. His responsibilities include oversight of elections. In 2019, he was appointed to the Michigan Election Modernization Team and in 2017 was selected as Michigan City Clerk of the Year by his colleagues across the state. He holds an MBA with a concentration in leadership and finance In 2017, he completed studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.