Senate committee approves ballot drop box security bills

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

“Ensuring the security of every voter’s ballot is critical to protecting the integrity of our democratic process,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, chair of the committee and previous Michigan secretary of state. “We need to have clear, uniform standards for these drop boxes.”

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.

“Having the bipartisan county boards of canvassers approve ballot drop boxes would use an existing and effective process to ensure people’s votes are secure,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “This is already done for other containers used to secure ballots by clerks during an election.”

Johnson’s bill would also require continuous video monitoring of all ballot drop boxes. Finally, it would require a disclaimer on drop boxes reminding voters that 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 also 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. The bill would specifically require that a chain of custody log include, at the very least, the date ballots were collected from the drop box, the individual who collected them, and the location at which they were collected.

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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