(WXYZ) — A new bill proposed in the Michigan Senate on Tuesday would allow early processing and tabulating of absentee ballots.
Senate Bill 387, introduced by State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D - Southfield), aims to address an issue that has affected clerks throughout the state ever since a proposal passed in 2018 to allow no-excuse absentee voting.
Under the bill, cities or townships with a population of at least 5,000 people, or a board of county election commissioners, can begin processing and tabulating absentee ballots on any of the eight days before election day.
It would be allowed between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. starting the second Monday before election day and ending on the Monday the day before election day.
To be able to participate, the city or township clerk would have to submit a written notice to the Michigan Secretary of State no later than 28 days before election day, and then the Secretary of State will publish a list of those cities and townships on their website.
In the 2022 election, Michigan lawmakers agreed to a proposal that would allow city and township clerks to begin processing absentee ballots two days before the election. That was for cities or townships with at least 10,000 people. It was also only for processing, which means election officials were only able to remove the absentee ballots from an outer envelope, but could not remove them from the secrecy sleeve or tabulate the vote.
That law was only temporary for 2022, and a permanent one was never put into place.
The new bill also said that no later than 18 days before an election, the clerk must post the locaton of the absentee voter counting place on the website, and the number of election inspectors who will process and tabulate absentee voter ballots at the place.
"For each day of processing and tabulation of absent voter ballots before election day, a participating city or township clerk shall deliver the absent voter ballots approved for tabulation to an absent voter counting board. The instructions and procedures adopted by the secretary of state regarding the processing and tabulating of absent voter ballots before election day must be followed. Absent voter ballots must be processed and tabulated in the same manner and under the same requirements as absent voter ballots are processed and tabulated on election day. Election results must not be generated, printed, or reported before 8 p.m. on election day," the bill reads.
Before the 2022 election, the Michigan Department of State said the number of absentee ballots was up significantly from the 2018 midterm election. A week before the 2022 election, the state said around 1.9 million absentee ballots were requested – equal to more than 23% of registered voters.
Moss also introduced a package of bills that would implement the changes Michigan voters passed as part of Proposal 2 in 2022.
In all, Prop 2 inclued nine changes that would happen.
One would require nine days of early, in-person voting. That means that Michiganders would get two weeks and the week before Election Day to vote at designated sites, which would be open eight hours per day. Several states already offer early in-person voting, so it would add Michigan to the list.
Many of the items also deal with absentee ballots. Under the proposal, Michigan would have a single application for people to vote absentee in all elections, require the state to provide postage for absentee applications and ballots, and require state-funded absentee ballot drop boxes and more than one drop box for communities with more than 15,000 people.
Proposal 2 would also require the Board of State Canvassers to certify elections based on official records of votes cast, require military or overseas ballots to be counted if postmarked by election day, and recognize the right to vote without harassment.