By Jessica Mathews /

With less than seven weeks to go before the November General Election, Livingston County residents and others across the state are being encouraged to make a plan to vote.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer was joined by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson during a press conference Wednesday. Benson stated that local clerks and absentee counting boards are facing extraordinary demands this fall and have been working tirelessly to juggle unprecedented challenges. Benson said there have been three elections this year with record turnout while fighting COVID-19. She assured that elections will continue to be accessible, safe and secure – adding voters have several options to ensure their vote is counted and their voice heard. It’s estimated that turnout in November will likely exceed 5 million, with roughly 60-70% voting absentee.

Benson encouraged voters to start taking action now to have a plan for voting and to request and cast their absentee ballots as soon as possible. She commented we’re entering the final stretch of what may be one of the most contentious and highly polarized election cycles ever seen

It was noted that ballots will be sent out to voters starting September 24th but should be returned as quickly as possible to ensure that postal delays don’t prevent them from being counted. It’s suggested that voters take ballots directly to their local clerk’s office. Benson and Governor Whitmer further called on state legislators to pass laws to prevent delayed election results and voter disenfranchisement.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Benson’s mass mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications to millions of 2020 voters was legal. Judges ruled 2-1 that she has “inherent” authority to act under a 2018 constitutional amendment expanding voting rights. The court upheld a lower judge’s decision. Benson began sending the applications in May to all voters in the battleground state who were not already on permanent absentee ballot lists for the August primary and November general elections, as a way to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic.