Michigan will process absentee ballots earlier

Michigan will process absentee ballots earlier

Under legislation enacted Wednesday, election officials in Michigan will begin processing absentee ballots two days prior to the November 8 election in an effort to avoid counting delays; absentee voting is expected to remain a popular option.

Michigan is one of several crucial swing states that allows no-excuse mail-in ballots but doesn’t allow local election offices to begin processing ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. This delays results in close elections and leaves a yawning hole for misinformation and lies to enter the public sphere.

After months of negotiations, Ann Bollin, chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, announced the agreement on election bills. The legislation have cleared the Republican-controlled legislature and will now be sent to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

On the Sunday before the election, election officials in towns with populations of at least 10,000 would be permitted to withdraw absentee ballots from their outer envelopes. However, they would not be permitted to remove secrecy sleeves or count votes until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

In addition, the bill would strengthen the security of ballot drop boxes and force county clerks to delete deceased people from voter records on a monthly basis.

A constitutional change approved by voters in 2018 authorized absentee voting without explanation, and a rise in absentee voting followed. During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan during the 2020 presidential election, a record-breaking 3,3 million people voted absentee. More over half of all August primary votes were cast absentee.

In addition to the high-stakes campaigns for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, an initiative on the ballot in November attempting to codify abortion rights in the state constitution is anticipated to generate a large turnout. Thursday marks the beginning of the mailing of absentee votes, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson anticipates several million voters to utilize this option this year.

The law would provide some relief to local electoral offices, but clerks maintain that it is insufficient. They have requested seven days for preparation prior to Election Day for years.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum stated that absentee ballot processing takes longer due to signature verification and that “allowing local clerks to open the envelope early is insufficient.”

Since Benson’s first day in office in 2019, pre-processing of absentee ballots has been an issue, and it has been utilized as a “political football.”

Benson stated, “As long as Michigan voters desire election results on Election Day, and as long as it is an essential security concern for voters not to have to wait for results, we will continue to urge the legislature to grant greater processing time.” “It is undeniably the proper thing to do, and it baffles me why any legislators who claim to want secure elections would refuse to comply with this fundamental reform in the legislation.”

Former President Donald Trump utilized the delayed reporting in battleground areas to promote bogus claims that election workers in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and other Democratic-leaning cities tampered with votes in the middle of the night.

Benson stated that delays in publishing election results result in “misinformation being weaponized” as political candidates declare victory prior to the release of final results.

The issue on this year’s ballot, proposed by the same coalition for voting rights that achieved the constitutional amendment in 2018, would further expand access to absentee voting. In addition to mandating nine days of in-person early voting, the Promote the Vote initiative would allow people to join a permanent list to receive absentee ballots at every election and allow them to join a permanent list to receive absentee ballots at every election.

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