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Bill introduced to ease expected problems with counting absentee ballots

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan's new law letting anyone vote absenteecould create big backlogs on election day.

Currently, local clerks can't count absentee votes until the day of the election. Nor can they prepare them, by taking the inner envelope, that contains the ballot, out of an outer envelope.

Republican State Senator and former Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson, says her bill would ease election-day counting woes. She spoke on Stateside.

"Clerks would be able to open that first envelope and pull out the second one, and that is then kept in a room that is locked and very secure," says Johnson. "But the ballots can never be exposed, because that's when we've had problems in the past with people changing them."

Johnson's bill would also allow for a changing of the guard of clerks on election day, so they don't have to work straight through until all ballots are counted. A local Republican official and local Democratic official must be present during that transition to ensure the security of ballots.

Current Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, told Stateside in August she thinks local clerks should be able to count votes prior to election day.

“This is something that we’re sounding the alarm on now, and we have the benefit of seeing other states who have gone through this, who have reached the same solution and conclusion,” Benson said. “It’s, to me, an easy change to make if you do so securely and carefully.”

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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