Friday, September 25, 2020

Clerks get more time to process absentee ballots under bill headed to Whitmer's desk

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2020 at 2:39 PM

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The Michigan Legislature approved a bill that will allow clerks to begin preparing absentee ballots to be counted a day before the election, a move intended to speed up what could be days of tallying votes.

Under the legislation, clerks still cannot begin counting absentee ballots until Election Day, but they may 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.

The bill, approved by the state House and Senate on Thursday, “is a step in the right direction to help ease the burden our clerks face in securely processing the significant number of absentee ballots we’re expecting citizens to cast this fall,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office tells Metro Times that the governor plans to sign the bill soon.

Once signed, 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.

Last week, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled that clerks must accept absentee ballots that are postmarked by the day before the Election Day, as long as they arrive before the election is certified.

Previously, state law required clerks to scrap ballots that did not arrive in the mail by Election Day. More than 6,400 were rejected in this year’s primary contest on Aug. 4 because they arrived after Election Day.

State officials say it could be a week or more before all of the absentee ballots are counted.

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