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Absentee ballot bills advance from Senate committee

Absentee ballot
Absentee ballot

Many Michigan clerks would have eight days to pre-process absentee ballots under a Senate bill package that made it out of committee Tuesday.

The eight-day window would apply to cities or townships with at least 5,000 residents. Smaller communities would be allowed to pre-process on the Monday before an election.

Senate Elections and Ethics Committee chair Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said the legislation would help get election results faster.

“In Michigan, we were only giving the largest communities mere hours before the start of election day in the last couple of election cycles and that is what contributed to all of the contrived chaos, and confusion, and conspiracies in the last several cycles,” Moss said.

Notably, conspiracy theories surrounding Michigan’s vote count took off surrounding the 2020 presidential election. That’s after a combination of increased absentee voters and COVID-19 pandemic-related issues affected the time it took to come out with a final election result.

SenatorRuth Johnson (R-Holly) said circumstances in recent elections have been unique. As far as delays in getting election results go, she said the solution should involve hiring more people.

“When you have very high populations, you have a lot of people that get trained and usually over a hundred don’t show up. And there was a slowness because of COVID,” Johnson said.

Current policy in Michigan lets clerks in communities of a certain size complete some pre-processing tasks for two days before an election.

Several other states, including Florida, offer more. But Johnson, who previously served as Secretary of State, said Michigan’s election system runs differently than Florida’s.

“If we were Florida, we would have 83 county clerks conducting elections. We have over 1,600 local clerks,” Johnson said.

Still, Moss said local clerks have spent years asking for more pre-processing time. He said advance processing would help cut down on confusion that can come when election results are delayed.

“This is something that other states have proven to keep secure the contents of those votes but also allow for the processing of those ballots so that they can get their results as early as possible,” Moss said.

He said a goal is to have new election policies in place in time for a test run during local elections this fall.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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