Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Michigan Senate approves bill to allow absentee ballots to be processed before Election Day

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 2:47 PM

  • Linda Parton, Shutterstock

The Michigan Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots a day before the election.

But Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says the proposed legislation “does not go nearly far enough” to ensure that clerks have enough time to process what is expected to be millions of absentee ballots in the November presidential election. Counting all of the absentee ballots could take seven days, clerks have warned.

Senate Bill 757 passed 34-2 and is now headed to the House.

Under the legislation, clerks still cannot begin counting absentee ballots until Election Day. It just allows clerks to start sorting the ballots by removing them from their envelopes, with their secrecy sleeves intact. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, recommends that clerks have at least seven days to process absentee ballots before Election Day.

“I support the small step forward because I know at this point clerks will take any legislative assistance. But the bill comes up far short of what our clerks and voters deserve,” Benson said in a news release. “Ultimately, it does a disservice to the 1,500 election officials who work tirelessly for their communities and our democracy, and doesn’t do enough to bring about more timely election results.”

If the bill passes the House and is signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan will become at least the 33rd state to allow clerks to process absentee ballots before Election Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sixteen states allow clerks to begin counting absentee ballots before Election Day.

For absentee ballots to count, they must reach the clerks’ offices by Election Day on Nov. 3. Benson is urging absentee voters to send in their ballots at least a week before Election Day in the event of delays in the U.S. Postal Service.

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