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Elections clerks scramble to administer state's new voting laws and earlier primary date

Katie Raymond
Signs leading to a polling place inside a school.

Election clerks across the state may need vacations after Tuesday’s primary election day.

Canton Township Clerk Michael Siegrist said clerks have been scrambling to administer the changes required by the state’s new voting laws — including early voting at new voting centers.

Siegrist — Michigan's 2021 clerk of the year — said he learned how to use new pollbook software a day before training others how to use it. The software ensures that people can’t cast ballots at more than one early voting center.

“It's almost like we changed almost everything about election administration all at once,” he said. “I don't know that any state has had such an ambitious rollout of accessible voting options all at one time.”

Siegrist said he had to ask his township’s board for more funding to hire additional elections inspectors to staff the township’s two in-person early voting centers.

He said moving the primary from March to February also caused issues. Siegrist said many of his usual inspectors are not in Michigan in February. They’re snowbirds and are still in Florida. So he had to hire even more inspectors to replace them.

Siegrist said the changes have been roughest for clerks working solo.

“A lot of these local clerks in smaller communities where maybe there's only one employee in the office don't have the budget or time to deal with these changes,” he said.

Siegrist said clerks will be analyzing the data to see how many people voted in person on Election Day itself versus absentee or in person during early voting days.

He said it might make more sense to only have voting centers, rather than voting centers plus precinct polling places. That would ease the burden on elections officials. Such a change would also allow people to cast a ballot at any voting center, and not have to cast a provisional ballot if they show up at the wrong precinct.

If you are registered but haven’t voted yet, Tuesday is the last day to do so, and it must be in person at your precinct voting place. You can find where to vote at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/

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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