Senate approves ballot drop box security bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation to strengthen security requirements for absentee ballot drop boxes in Michigan.

“One of the most important steps to ensuring the integrity of our elections is to protect the security of every ballot,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, chair of the committee and previous Michigan secretary of state. “This commonsense reform would put in place clear, uniform standards for absentee ballot drop boxes across our state.”

In 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a Johnson bill listing several requirements that must be in place for absentee voter ballot drop boxes. Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Johnson, would update and increase the drop box requirements. The bill would require that the security of ballot drop boxes be approved by both the Michigan secretary of state and a community’s local county board of canvassers.

“My measure would use an existing and effective process to ensure people’s votes are secure,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “Under the reform, ballot drop boxes would be approved by the bipartisan county boards of canvassers, who already approve other containers used by clerks to secure ballots during an election.”

SB 273 would also require continuous video monitoring of all ballot drop boxes and require a disclaimer on drop boxes reminding voters it is a felony under Michigan law for someone other than a voter, their immediate family, or a member of their household to return an absentee ballot.

SB 278, sponsored by Sen. Michael D. MacDonald, would establish a chain of custody for absentee voter ballots picked up from drop boxes and require all ballots to be transported in an approved ballot container.

Senate passage of the bills came a day after the Senate Elections Committee reported SB 279, also sponsored by Johnson, which would ensure that political parties and other organizations have a fair opportunity to have challengers present during the counting of absentee ballots. Under the bill, at least one challenger would need to be allowed for every 2,999 absentee ballots to be counted, which is similar to the size of an in-person voting precinct.

SB 279 has been sent to the full Senate for consideration, and SBs 273 and 278 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

###