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Senate approves election preprocessing, integrity measures

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to allow local clerks two days to preprocess absentee ballots making it more efficient to count ballots on Election Day and allowing election results to be delivered more quickly in some of Michigan’s largest communities.

“We allowed for limited preprocessing of absentee ballots in 2020 to help clerks be efficient with the increased number of absentee ballots from no-reason absentee voting created by Proposal 3 of 2018,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly. “This legislation would allow clerks to again use this tool to efficiently and securely process absentee ballots, allow more communities to participate and increase the time available for clerks to preprocess ballots for counting on Election Day.”

In addition to allowing for the preprocessing of absentee ballots, the legislation approved by the Senate also included several items aimed at strengthening election integrity. The law would give new abilities for county clerks to assist in removing deceased individuals from voting rolls, as well as increase security requirements for absentee ballot drop boxes. The legislation also requires clerks to maintain records tracking the chain of custody of absentee ballots deposited in drop boxes.

Senate Bill 311, sponsored by Johnson, and SB 8, sponsored by Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, to make voting easier for military service members serving overseas were also approved. The legislation establishes a secure process for active-duty military members serving overseas to electronically return their ballots. Members would verify their identity using what is known as a Common Access Card or “CAC” issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“This is legislation I have been working on since I was secretary of state and visited our troops serving on active duty in the Middle East to discuss this idea,” Johnson said. “We need to do everything we can to help our brave men and women to vote as long as it is secure. I am proud of the other integrity measures we secured to help clean dead people from our voter rolls and ensure the security of absentee ballots.”

“As a former clerk, I am proud to work on this effort to help our military men and women vote more easily,” said Wojno. “My bill allows us to utilize existing technology already used by our military to transmit classified information to ensure that this process and our military members’ votes are secure.”

House Bill 4491 would allow clerks of cities or townships with populations of at least 10,000 people to perform certain preprocessing of absentee ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday prior to Election Day. Clerks could still not expose voted ballots or count votes until Election Day. The bill also features stronger protections to ensure a fair balance of partisan election inspectors during the process and allows for challengers to be present to observe preprocessing work.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or visiting https://www.SenatorRuthJohnson.com/photos/.

Photo caption: Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, highlights legislation to allow two days of preprocessing absentee ballots, remove dead people from the voter file, increase security for ballot drop boxes, and establish a secure process for active-duty military members serving overseas to electronically return their ballots.