The panel was organized by Promote the Vote, a statewide voting rights group that championed Proposition 2 last year.
On the topic:
The initiative also allows private donations to the election organization, if disclosed, and requires the state to pay for postage and mailing boxes. The constitutional amendment also ensures that registered voters can continue to vote without ID if they sign an affidavit identifying them.
House Elections Chair Penelope Cernoglu, D-East Lansing, told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday that she hopes to implement all of the changes proposed by Tuesday’s panelists and “do it in the best way for the clerks and all voters.”
In recent years, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has blocked a number of Republican changes to election law, including voter ID requirements, greater access for poll watchers and the removal of some voters from the voter rolls. Some of them had bipartisan support.
Here are four things voting rights advocates and election secretaries want from the state legislature:
Enacting the new constitutional requirements could cost the state $2.1 million for drop-off boxes and $4.8 million in postage for the 6 million drop-off ballots. according to the non-partisan Fiscal Agency of the House of Representatives.
The state is flush with the money, with a $9.2 billion surplus. Michigan also has $16 million in federal election funding that could help offset costs, the analysis said.
But the changes could also lead to increased costs for municipal employees who must now staff precincts for early voting. Some expressed concern they may not be able to afford it.
“It’s going to take money that a lot of communities don’t have,” Adam Witt, Garrison’s clerk and president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, said during Tuesday’s discussion.
“They don’t have their own town hall. Once a month, they rent space from someone for council meetings,” he said. “What are they going to do?”
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byram said money is the main issue.
“Election administration was considered critical infrastructure many years ago,” she said Tuesday. “You wouldn’t know it based on the funding we didn’t get and the respect the election administrators didn’t get.”
Former House Select Committee Chair Ann Bolin, R-Brighton, now serves as vice chair of the statewide subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
Bolin told Bridge Michigan that she supported more funding for local clerks and expects the Legislature to prioritize it as the budget cycle begins.
“The conversation needs to start now,” she said.
More time for campaigning, pre-processing
In addition to funding, clerks would benefit from more time to count and audit ballots and pre-process absentee ballots, panelists said.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope advocated moving the primary date from August to May, which he said would give clerks more time to campaign for the primary and test voting machines ahead of the general election.
Last year, the Republican-led Legislature authorized two days of pre-processing ballots ahead of the November election, allowing local clerks to retrieve ballots from envelopes in advance. They were still not allowed to put their ballots through the tabulator until Election Day.
Update of the electronic voting record
Under the Republican-backed law passed last year, local officials are required to update the qualified voter file — the official list of registered voters — at least monthly to weed out dead voters.
The night before each election, local clerks download a copy of the qualified voter’s file to an offline laptop for reference the next day at the polls. That data is “static,” Swope said.
But if voters are allowed to vote at any of the early voting stations, it is a practice early voting is currently underway in Illinois — Static data can create a loophole for voters who may vote multiple times in different locations, Swope said.
“If I have three sites just for people from the city of Lansing, if it’s static data at the beginning of the day, what’s to stop someone from going to all three sites that day?” he said.
But on the other hand, connecting the electronic ballot to the Internet for real-time updates would be a challenge for rural communities that lack broadband, he said. Also, connecting voter rolls to the Internet could increase the risk of hacking, Byram told Bridge Michigan.
Bolin, the state representative, said voters should only be allowed to vote at their precinct’s early voting location, and the existing system already prevents duplicate votes by allowing local clerks to communicate with each other and identify voters who are voting outside their precinct. .