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Michigan has issued more than one million absentee ballots for the upcoming primary election

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Amid ongoing uncertainties about coronavirus and with the Aug. 4 primary approaching, Michigan is seeing a surge in new voter registrations and requests for absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office provided data Wednesday showing that local clerks across Michigan have received a total of more than 1.3 million requests for absentee ballots.

The data shared with the Free Press also indicated more than a million absentee ballots have already been sent out.

That's about 3½ times the number of applications received and ballots issued ahead  of the August primary in the last presidential election cycle in 2016. 

In May, Benson announced that because of fears that crowded polling places could lead to the spread of coronavirus, she would work with local clerks to ensure that all of Michigan's 7.7 million registered voters received absentee ballot applications.

After that, President Donald Trump criticized her on Twitter and threatened to withhold state funding, arguing that efforts in Michigan and elsewhere to expand absentee, or mail-in, voting would lead to voter fraud. There is little evidence to support that claim, however, and Trump himself has voted absentee on several occasions.

Both Democrats and Republicans believe that expanding absentee voting, especially in heavily concentrated urban areas like Detroit, could result in an advantage for Democrats.

Absentee voting participation shot up in Michigan after the state's voters approved a ballot measure two years ago allowing absentee voting for no reason.

Benson's office also reported a surge in new voter registrations after seeing numbers drop off sharply during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan.

During April and May, there were just 12,887 new voter registrations across the state, far less than the 41,222 new registrations recorded in the same period in 2016. 

But there were 35,278 new registrations in June, a significant gain on the 23,519 recorded in June 2016.

The overall number of new voter registrations this year, however, remained well under what it was in 2016, with 107,472 so far this year compared with 151,816 in the first six months of that year.

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