A bill that would allow Michigan polling clerks to begin processing absentee ballots before Election Day is still in legislative limbo, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said, adding that the Senate continues to “finesse” the proposal.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-14-Holly), who is a former secretary of state and chair of the Michigan Senate Elections Committee. It calls for allowing clerks to begin processing, but not counting, ballots before the election, according to The Associated Press.
“It wouldn’t surprise me that we get enough support to do something before the general election and then evaluate it afterward,” Shirkey, who previously opposed the bill, told the outlet last week. Similar legislation is pending in the Michigan House of Representatives.
Shirkey told AP News that temporarily changing the law would let Michigan “controlled steps, acknowledging that things have changed but not putting the integrity of the election in jeopardy.”
Concerns over increased absentee voting due to the coronavirus pandemic have continued to rise, especially after August primary elections.
Michigan had more than 10,000 marked invalid during the August primary, according to reporting by the Detroit Free Press. More than 6,400 ballots were not counted because clerks received them in the mail after polls closed on Election Day and roughly 2,100 ballots were invalidated because they forgot to sign them or the signatures did not match the one provided by the voter when they registered to vote.
A record 2.5 million votes were cast in Michigan’s primary, with roughly 1.6 million of them absentee, more than than the previous record of 1.3 million from November 2016, according to AP News.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has pushed lawmakers to allow election workers to process votes early, warning that not doing so would delay knowing the results of close races in November by at least three days.
She said that cities or townships with more 25,000 should be able to process ballots on November 2, by removing the ballot from the outer envelope, but not the inner secrecy envelope. They could then begin counting at 7 a.m. on November 3, according to AP News.
“This needs to be a priority. I believe we have the bipartisan votes to get it passed,” Johnson said.
Senate Bill 0757 has been introduced, but not passed. It is unclear if or when the Senate may take action.
Read the bill here.
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