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Michigan Legislature sends elections deal to governor’s desk

Absentee Ballot
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Absentee ballot

Election bills are heading to the governor’s desk after lawmakers reached a deal this week following months of negotiating.

Republican Senator Ruth Johnson chairs the Senate Elections Committee. She says the bill would allow more clerks to pre-process absentee ballots two days before Election Day. In 2020, clerks could do that pre-processing one day before the election. It would also require county clerks to scrub the deceased from their lists of registered voters at least monthly.

“This process worked very well," Johnson said. "The legislation before us would remove the sunset to allow clerks to again use this tool.”

Republican Representative Ann Bollin chairs the House Elections and Ethics Committee. She says reaching agreement on priorities was the hardest part of the negotiations.

"You want everybody to win something," Bollin said. "But I think [what] motivated everybody is to really work to make sure we are protecting our voters and ensuring that our voters have access and that restoring confidence, making sure we have good, solid voter rolls. This is just a start."

However, Michigan Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow says it doesn’t give enough time for clerks to truly be efficient.

“Two days doesn’t really enable that," Rollow said. "It enables them to make a mad dash to try and get everything done.”

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum also feels the bills don't go far enough and worries that as a result they may be blamed in election results are not immediate.

"The Republican Legislature has failed to listen to election professionals," Byrum said. "Certified—state certified and nationally certified, in many cases—election professionals in what we need to more efficiently and securely conduct our elections."

The Michigan Department of State describes the legislation as a minimal step in the right direction. If signed, the legislation would take effect in time for this November's election.

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