Michigan Senate Approves More Time to Process Absentee Ballots

September 17, 2020 by Dan McCue
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday approved a bill allowing the state’s larger municipalities to begin processing an expected surge of absentee ballots prior to Election Day.

The legislation, which passed 34-2 with strong bipartisan support, would allow clerks in communities with at least 25,000 residents to open return envelopes for ballots the day before Election Day.

Currently they are prohibited from opening the ballots until the polls open on Election Day. Under the bill, the actual ballots would still stay inside secrecy envelopes until counting on Election Day.

Communities wanting the option would have to notify Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson no later than 20 days before Nov. 3.

The GOP-controlled House will consider the measure next. 

On Tuesday, a House committee approved Senate-passed legislation that would allow for shifts at absentee counting boards, so tired workers no longer have to stay so long after the polls close.

Local election officials of both parties have been lobbying for the extra time for months, arguing that the passage of a 2018 ballot initiative that lets people cast an absentee ballot for any reason would dramatically increase their use.

Though the coronavirus outbreak added to the urgency of their pleas, the Senate remained reluctant to move on the measure until a record 1.6 million people voted absentee in the state’s August primary, nearly two-thirds of all those who cast a ballot.

Election officials are predicting that more than 3 million Michigan residents will vote by absentee ballot in November.

In a letter to legislative leaders delivered Tuesday, more than a dozen clerks  — both Democrats and Republicans — said processing an absentee ballot takes far more time than recording an in-person vote.

“We do not want Michigan and Michigan leaders to be known historically as the ones who failed to avoid a preventable election mess,” they wrote.

While they asked that pre-processing begin seven days before the election, the Senate stuck with one day.

Secretary of State Benson, a Democrat, said while the bill is a step in the right direction, it simply does not go far enough.

“This bill allows only 10 hours, only minimal processing and includes a sunset provision that requires clerks to continue their advocacy in years to come,” she said. “Ultimately, it does a disservice to the 1,500 election officials who work tirelessly for their communities and our democracy, and doesn’t do enough to bring about more timely election results.”

On Wednesday, Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged voters who choose to vote from home to avoid possible U.S. Postal Service delays by mailing their ballots back as soon as possible, or hand delivering them to their local election clerk’s office or ballot drop box. 

Starting Sept. 24 local election clerk offices will send absentee ballots to voters and have them available for early in-person voting. 

Whitmer also noted that Michigan citizens who are not registered and do not have a state ID or driver’s license can register at their local election clerk’s office.

“Already we’ve had three successful elections this year which saw record turnout, record numbers of citizens voting by mail, and little to no crowding on Election Day. We are on track to replicate this success in November,” Benson said. “Our clerks are doing their part, working tirelessly as they have all year to juggle unprecedented challenges while embracing record turnout. But they and voters need support from the federal government and our state legislature.”

In The News

Health

Voting

Michigan

League of Woman Voters Seek Redistricting Deadline Extension in Michigan
In The States
League of Woman Voters Seek Redistricting Deadline Extension in Michigan
June 13, 2021
by Dan McCue

The League of Women Voters of Michigan filed an amicus brief with the state's Supreme Court this week in support of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission's proposed extended timeline for adopting final redistricting plans. The commission was formed after a 2018 public referendum in which... Read More

Michigan Creates High Speed Internet Office
In The States
Michigan Creates High Speed Internet Office
June 3, 2021
by TWN Staff

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Wednesday establishing the state's first high-speed internet office. The new office will coordinate and advance the state’s efforts to ensure that every home and business in Michigan has access to an affordable, reliable high-speed connection that meets their needs and the skills to... Read More

Michigan Awards Grants to Restore, Protect Water Quality
In The States
Michigan Awards Grants to Restore, Protect Water Quality
June 3, 2021
by TWN Staff

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on Wednesday awarded 11 grants totaling over $4.7 million for watershed management projects that will benefit wetlands, lakes and streams. Each grant will reduce sediment, nutrients and other contaminants to help restore impaired water bodies and protect... Read More

Independent Redistricting Off to Rocky Start in Michigan
In The States
Independent Redistricting Off to Rocky Start in Michigan
April 22, 2021
by Dan McCue

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's first-ever, independent citizens redistricting commission got off to a rocky start earlier this month after its decision to hire an alleged Democratic activist as an advisor inspired a strong backlash from the state’s Republican party. The commission, which is responsible for redrawing... Read More

Whitmer Signs Order Establishing Michigan Forensic Science Task Force
In The States
Whitmer Signs Order Establishing Michigan Forensic Science Task Force
April 2, 2021
by Reece Nations

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Friday instituting a forensic science task force as an advisory body within the Michigan Department of State Police.  The task force’s role will be to provide recommendations to improve the use of forensics as a... Read More

Once the Mainstream Model, Michigan GOP Embraces Right Wing
In The States
Once the Mainstream Model, Michigan GOP Embraces Right Wing

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Josh Venable, a longtime Michigan GOP operative and chief of staff to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, can trace the arc of the state's Republican Party clearly."This was the state where to be Republican was defined by Gerald Ford and George... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top