Senate adopts bills to allow swifter ballot counting

Sep 16, 2020

LANSING, MI (MPRN)--   The Michigan Senate adopted a bill Tuesday that would allow many local governments to prepare absentee ballots to be opened and processed the evening before Election Day.

Local clerks say that could shave hours off the process of tallying the ballots.

It’s an election where more absentee votes than ever will be cast – and with fewer poll workers to help count them.

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said that creates a problem. Every vote needs to be counted, but people get suspicious if the counting drags out. 

“There is a trust factor involved when election results are delayed,” he said. “I think people begin to lose trust in the process.”

This bill would only apply to elections in roughly 70 Michigan cities of 25,000 or more people. Republicans say the state can use this experience to decide whether to apply these rules more widely in future elections.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, called the bill “a step in the right direction,” but said it falls short of what’s needed to ensure votes are counted in a timely fashion. She said clerks should be able to start processing absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

“Ultimately, it does a disservice to the 1,500 election officials who work tirelessly for their communities and our democracy, and it doesn’t do enough to bring about more timely election results,” she said in a statement released by her office. 

The bill now goes to the state House.