UPDATE 7/19/23 6:45 p.m.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a new package of election laws, mandated by the passing of Proposal 2 last November. The biggest change will be at least nine early days of in-person voting. Some communities could decide to go as far as 29 days early.
Absentee voting and Election Day voting will be the same but each jurisdiction can decide how to handle the early in-person voting. The state only mandates it be a viable option for voters, so many smaller communities are expected to combine voting to one central location.
The details have not been finalized but that is the plan for most of Isabella County right now.
“Putting them all together for the nine days of voting helps save a lot of money for the taxpayers,” Said Minde Lux, Isabella County Clerk. “The biggest issue that I have right now is security and to be able to have one location where I can lock up the machines at the end of the night. I have one place that you’re going in one place that you’re going out. To me, seems more reliable and safe versus having every township open.”
Lux says clerks will be meeting with the state at the end of August for more explanation and direction with the new rules.
UPDATE 7/18/23 2:15 p.m.
Gov. Whitmer has signed bipartisan legislation into law that expands voting rights under voter-approved Prop 2.
“After many months of collaboration between local clerks, county clerks and legislators, these laws create the framework and tools needed to carry out the will of the voters in a safe and secure manner,” said Vanessa Guerra, Saginaw County Clerk, Co-Chair of the Michigan Association of County Clerks Legislative Committee.
Bills from the Senate will create a website for Michiganders to track their ballot, require nine days of early voting, put in place rules for fixing errors on ballots and clarify ID laws.
House bills included in the package will make it a felony to reveal results before election day, allow voters to opt into mail-in voting for all future elections, and increase the size of elections precincts to reduce costs. Secure drop boxes will also be required for every municipality or for every 15,000 registered voters in bigger municipalities.
6/14/23 6:35 p.m.
After a vast majority of Michiganders approved expanded voting access in November, the legislature is just now getting to implementing the changes. Proposal 2 hit many aspects of the voting process to expand access, most notably, creating at least nine days of early voting.
The proposal was broad and needed the legislature to fill in the details. Those decisions are happening now.
“This proposal was supported by 60% of Michigan voters,” said Sen. Jeremy Moss, sponsor of the bills. “You don’t get to that number with just Democrats.”
Michigan is about to have the biggest overhaul in the election system in decades. Approved by the voters in November, the changes behind Prop 2 are getting their guidance from Lansing.
First, it recognizes the fundamental right to vote and nobody can take that away.
It would also make it easier for the overseas military to vote, pay postage for absentee ballots, tighten the canvassing process and mandate enough ballot drop boxes.
It will allow for private entities to donate to help fund these changes, with full disclosure. It would codify that a photo ID is not needed but a signature is and will be compared to your signature on file. Voters would just have to apply once to receive an absentee ballot for every election.
The biggest change will be early voting, twenty other states do this including Florida and Texas. Despite the term “fundamental right to vote,” the legislature can still shape that structure for what it really means.
“It gives guidance on how to enact them to our 83 county clerks, and some 1,500 municipal clerk,” said Moss.
This bill package will allow each local clerk to decide one of three strategies to take.
“They can conduct it themselves, they can partner with neighboring community or they can contract it out to the county,” said Moss. “And what it will allow for, according to the ballot proposal, is at least nine days of in-person voting.”
Even though proposals passed, and these changes are going into effect, they needed supplemental legislation to help implement them. While Democrats say that’s exactly what these bills do, there are Republicans pushing back. They are saying that these bills do that, and then much more. Much more than voters expected them to do in November.
“It’s advertised as a minimum of nine days of voting,” said Rep. Rachelle Smit, Republican from Martin and a former local clerk. “Well actually it could be 29 days of early voting.”
Larger districts, with more resources, may decide to go the full 29 days which creates inequality with smaller districts. Some believe when you increase election access, you lower election security.
“A lot of the security measures are being weakened. It gives very broad authority to the Secretary of State with no oversight,” said Smit. “I think that would be concerning. Everyone wants to have secure and safe elections and in my mind this is actually weakening them.”
Michigan Democrats are standing behind the state’s election security and say those same standards are there as they make it easier to participate.
“We’ve heard some of these concerns, I think some of them have been contrived,” said Moss. “But we definitely want to instill confidence that our processes are effective, our results are accurate and people can tangibly feel that when they feed the ballot through the feeder.”