Michigan election head: Drop off absentee ballot, don't mail

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's top elections official said Tuesday that the presidential battleground state's 1.5 million people with absentee ballots still in-hand should put them in a drop box or take them to their local clerk's office rather than risk sending them by mail with two weeks to go until Election Day.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said hand-delivering a ballot will ensure it will arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Night and be counted.

She also urged people who still want an absentee ballot to request it in person from their clerk instead of by mail, and she defended her recent directive clarifying that openly carrying a gun is not permitted in or within 100 feet of polling places, clerks' offices and absentee counting boards on Election Day.

“We want to ensure that every valid vote counts and is received on time,” Benson, a Democrat, told reporters.

As of Tuesday, more than three million absentee ballots had been requested in the state and more than half of those had been returned. People can vote absentee for any reason under a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters.

Benson has projected a total turnout of five million votes, which would be roughly equal to the state record set when Barack Obama first won in 2008.

Benson said Michigan is on track to see more than two-thirds of ballots cast early, easing officials' efforts to minimize crowds and long lines on Election Day during the coronavirus pandemic.

She projected that two million people would vote in person on Nov. 3.

Bensone held a virtual news conference days after issuing the gun guidance, saying the open carrying of firearms can create a threatening environment. She said the state police would enforce the ban in places where local sheriffs or police are unable or unwilling to do so.

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