Michigan Bill Would Allow Big Cities to Process Absentee Ballots Day Before Election

This general election, Michiganders have the right to vote absentee for any reason. With ongoing health concerns related to the pandemic, record numbers of absentee ballots are expected to be submitted.

Now, the Michigan Senate passed a new bill that could help cut down some of the processing work for clerks on election day.

The approved legislation will allow bigger Michigan cities to start processing absentee ballots on November 2, one day before voters head to the polls. The bill would only allow cities with 25,000 or more registered voters get the head start.

Cities like Traverse City and Mount Pleasant wouldn’t be eligible. TC Clerk Benjamin Marentette is doing everything he can to get prepared for 9-10,000 expected absentee ballots.

“We’re hiring more people, we are going to have a team processing absentee ballots that double the size of any team we’ve ever had been in place before,” said Marentette.

The city has also purchased an AV ballot tabulator to speed things up.

“I’ve been saying all along and advocating for the ability for clerks, election officials to start processing absentee ballots sooner than 7 a.m. on election day. And the reason is it really just comes down to bandwidth,” said Marentette, who also serves on a state election modernization board.

Clerks in big cities like Grand Rapids or Detroit could be able to process ballots which would cut expedite their workload. Voters could know the outcome of their precincts sooner.

“I certainly fully expect larger cities to have long delays and reporting of results and they could be meaningful in terms of the outcome of for instance the presidential election in November, and knowing what that outcome is,” said Marentette.

For small communities like Benzonia Township, they’ll still have lots of work the day-of.

“I’m sure it will take longer,” said Clerk Diana Heller. “[It’s] sad, because it would really help us out. Most of my workers are retired, long-time retired…their stamina is not quite where it should be and it would really help if we could start counting the day before.”

The bill has passed the senate and will head to the house. It has not been signed by the governor yet.

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