Front yard display complete with a toilet and sign reading ‘Place mail-in ballots here’ gets some unwanted attention.
Barb Byrum, the Democratic clerk of Ingham County, Michigan, filed a complaint with police after seeing a public display of dislike for mail-in voting outside of a Mason home. The homeowners put a toilet on their front lawn along with a sign that read, “Place mail-in ballots here.” Nearby was also a sign demanding the recall of Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“It is a felony to take illegal possession of an absentee ballot,” Byrum said, and added that the ‘joke’ could easily lead to confusion by those who are not familiar with voting procedures. She said, “It’s solicitation of absentee ballots into a container. Our election integrity is not a game. I expect everyone to act appropriately, and this is unacceptable.”
Byrum added, “Elections in this country are to be taken seriously and there are many people who are voting by mail for the first time this Election. We need to put out accurate, complete information about voting by mail, which is the safest way to vote during the pandemic. That starts at the top and I worry that the misinformation coming from President (Donald) Trump is encouraging people to lose faith in the absentee voting process, something that has been taking place since the Civil War.” Byrum did not reveal the homeowners’ identities but did comment that at least one resident had, ironically, voted absentee in the past three elections.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned absentee voting could lead to fraud. However, Byrum said, “I know Michigan elections are safe and secure, regardless of how a voter returns their ballot. The overarching concern is the attack on election integrity.”
Mason law enforcement officials indicated the two people who occupy the residence were interviewed by police and were cooperative with the investigation, adding, “The issue was forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office for evaluation.”
Voters in Michigan can request an absentee ballot before the deadline of October 30, but the Secretary of State has issued warnings that it’s best to do so as soon as possible in order to avoid delays due to the pandemic. State officials have estimated more than 2 million Michigan voters could use mail-in absentee ballots. To address this, in a recent decision, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled absentee ballots would be counted if they are postmarked through November 2.
Stephens wrote in her decision, “The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the United States Office of the Inspector General released a report that specifically identified Michigan as a state with statutes placing voters at a ‘high risk’ of disenfranchisement. No eligible voter should be disenfranchised through no fault of their own for exercising their right to vote by mail. The court’s decision recognizes many of the unique challenges that the pandemic has created for all citizens and will reduce the potential for voter disenfranchisement due to mail delays. However, we still want voters to make a plan to vote now, and not wait until the last minute if they want to vote by mail. That’s why we will continue to strongly encourage voters to request and return their absentee ballots as soon as possible.”