The local state senate race is shaping up to be one of the more interesting races this fall, because longtime Representative Robert Jones, who was running on the Democratic ticket against Republican Tonya Schuitmaker, died a couple of weeks ago. Of course, all the ballots had already been printed, and many absentee ballots had already been distributed. Local Democratic freaking-out aside, this caused a great deal of consternation and confusion, since Michigan law discards any votes for a deceased person.
The solution for absentee voters determined by The Powers That Be, apparently, was as follows:
If you voted for Jones, and you wish to vote for his replacement, current Kalamazoo mayor Bobby Hopewell, you must request a new absentee ballot.
If you voted for Jones, don’t like Hopewell, and wish to vote for Schuitmaker, you must request a new absentee ballot.
If you voted for Jones, and you don’t care if your vote in that race is discarded, you don’t have to do anything.
If you voted for Schuitmaker, you don’t have to do anything, because even though your ballot has the name of a dead guy on it, your vote was for a living candidate and still counts.
Clear as mud, right?
It gets worse. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:
I’m a staunch Republican who wants to ensure a Schuitmaker victory. I encourage everyone who already voted absentee ballots in favour of Schuitmaker to pretend they voted for Jones and request a new absentee ballot…which they then use to vote for Schuitmaker again.
As far as I can tell, there are absolutely no safeguards in place to stop this from happening.
What they should have done was to discard every single ballot that has Robert Jones as a candidate. Yes, this would require all absentee voters who already had ballots to get new ballots, but it would ensure that no one can sway the election in favour of the Republican candidate by voting twice. (It would also have the side benefit of not revealing the political affiliation of anyone who comes in to request a replacement ballot, as the township clerk’s office made it very clear that if I voted for Tonya Schuitmaker, I did not need to be requesting a replacement ballot. So much for secrecy!)
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