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Senate panel OKs bill requiring quick announcement of special elections

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson on Wednesday supported the panel’s approval of legislation to require a speedy announcement of a special election to fill a legislative vacancy.

“The ability of the people to have representation in their state government is fundamental to our republic,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “When a legislative vacancy occurs, the people of that area deserve to know when it will be filled.

“This bill doesn’t infringe on the governor’s constitutional authority to call for a special election in case of a legislative vacancy or how soon that election needs to happen. It only requires that he or she announce the decision in a timely fashion — to begin the process of allowing the people to elect their new voice.”

House Bill 4996, sponsored by the late Rep. Andrea Schroeder of Waterford, would require the governor to announce the date to fill a vacancy in the Michigan Senate or House of Representatives within 30 days after the vacancy occurred. It does not require the election itself to happen within that 30-day window.

On Thursday, the Senate approved two other bills dealing with properly filling vacant positions on local municipal boards and ensuring there are no mistakes on ballots.

HB 5287 would address instances when there is a vacancy in an elected township position. In these situations, the township board has 45 days to appoint someone for the remainder of the term. If the vacancy is unable to be filled within 45 days, the county clerk must call for a special election with each “township political party committee” submitting a candidate.

The bill would update the law to change references of “township party committees” — which no longer exist — to “county party committees.”

HB 5258 would extend the deadline for a county election commission to file proof ballots with the county clerk to 58 days prior to an election, allow a county clerk to send proof ballots via first-class mail to candidates on the ballot and email them if that address is provided, and give candidates up to 4 p.m. on the fifth business day after mailing to submit corrections to the county clerk. It also would allow a county clerk to email the proof ballot to the secretary of state.

“These bills would remove outdated language in our election law to avoid any confusion and also modernize processes that will improve our elections,” Johnson said.

HB 4996 has been sent to the full Senate for consideration. HBs 5258 and 5287 head back to the House to be enrolled and sent to the governor.

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