Sen. Johnson’s absentee ballot reforms sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday finalized Sen. Ruth Johnson’s legislation to help local clerks efficiently meet the demand of an expected record number of absentee ballots this fall.

“We must improve Election Day efficiency while also protecting the integrity of our elections as our local clerks prepare for the number of people voting by mail in the Nov. 3 election to more than double the amount from 2016,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “These reforms can help reduce mistakes caused by election officials working long hours by allowing local clerks to begin preprocessing absentee ballots to prepare them to be counted more quickly on Election Day and allowing clerks to shift in fresh workers at absentee voter counting boards.”

Senate Bill 757 would allow clerks of cities or townships with populations of least 25,000 people to perform certain preprocessing of absentee ballots prior to this year’s Nov. 3 election.

Local clerks would not be allowed to remove absentee ballots from their secrecy envelopes as part of their preprocessing work. They would also be required to secure the absentee ballots in containers approved by the Board of Canvassers for counting on Election Day. The process would also be open to election challengers, and clerks would need to notify the secretary of state of their intention to use the provision at least 20 days prior to the election.

Before being sent to the governor, SB 757 was expanded to require clerks to contact voters if a signature on an absentee ballot doesn’t match the one registered with the state and to allow clerks to have shifts of workers in an absentee voter counting board as long as no one leaves the board location until after the polls have closed. For counting boards, there can be no gaps between shifts, ballots can never be left unattended and at least one election inspector from each major party must always be present.

“These are commonsense measures that will help our clerks and election workers while preserving integrity,” Johnson said. “This legislation will allow our local election officials to efficiently and securely process the estimated 3 million absentee ballots expected to be cast in this November’s election.”

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