Employees face unknowns as Michigan must conduct early in-person voting

Michigan’s next state election will look different than the last.

Proposal 2, passed by 60% of the vote, introduces a handful of electoral changes to the state constitution. Nine days of early in-person voting is the largest.

Exactly how it will be implemented is still unknown as officials await action from the state legislature and guidance from the electoral office.

“There are too many unknowns to make a plan,” said Joel Hondorp, a Grand Rapids clerk who oversees voting in Michigan’s second largest city.

Hondorp has had initial talks on the ground, he told MLive, but he’s awaiting legislation to answer things like: B. how many websites and tabs for early voting he needs or how ballots can look different.

Livingston Borough Secretary Elizabeth Hundley is also waiting so she is “ready to take action”.

“If we start jumping through hoops at this point and changes in legislation change our plan, it’s kind of a waste of resources,” she told MLive.

Prop 2 gives Michiganders the right to vote early in person in “every statewide and federal election,” according to the full text of the amendment.

“Each early voting location must be open for at least eight hours daily for at least nine consecutive days beginning on the second Saturday before the election and ending on the Sunday before the election,” the amendment said.

Read the full amendment here.

If this was November 8th for this past election, the sites would have been open from Saturday October 29th to Sunday November 6th. The change also allows secretaries to extend their local days and hours for early voting.

Don’t expect legislation and guidance for early in-person voting before next year, when Democrats take over the legislature and the polls office finishes post-election duties.

BOE “is conducting a preliminary legal analysis of the requirements of Proposal 2 and will determine the timeline for its implementation after the conclusion of the current election cycle,” State Department spokeswoman Angela Benander told MLive.

Some Prop 2 provisions will affect the 2023 election, but legislation could affect those. It is not yet known whether an in-person early vote will be possible before then.

Hundley said a Livingston County school district will have a proposal for the May 2023 vote, but she doesn’t expect an early in-person vote to be ready for it.

According to the amendment, an early voting location can serve voters from “more than six counties” and “more than one ward within a county.” Jurisdictions can share websites if they are in the same county.

Chris Thomas, Michigan’s director of elections for 36 years through 2017, has an idea of ​​what officials might do with a typical county that has a large anchor city with surrounding rural areas.

When Thomas endorsed Prop 2 last month, he hypothesized that townships and smaller towns could band together for one site. He estimated that up to half of Michigan’s 83 counties would only need one or a few locations.

“There are ways to combine costs and save,” he said.

Republican nominee for Secretary of State Kristina Karamo, who lost her election, has argued that municipalities will raise property taxes to meet Prop 2 requirements. And she has suggested that people from multiple jurisdictions voting early in one venue could create problems with the chain of custody for voting machines.

The House Fiscal Agency puts the nationwide cost in the millions. Thomas acknowledged last month that certain costs were going up, but he said other costs were going down.

For example, early in-person voting would eliminate postage costs for those voters and reduce the flood of absentee ballots, which – under current law – can only be counted two days before an election. Prop 2 also allows people to fill out an application to vote absentee for all future elections.

Upcoming Democratic lawmakers have yet to publicly discuss funding to implement Prop 2.

Related: The Democratic trifecta puts LGBTQ rights and gun reform on Whitmer’s second-term agenda

Hundley, whose district is home to about 200,000 people, said early in-person early voting will be a positive and popular addition because about half of Michigan voters still prefer to show up on Election Day.

But, she said, it needs state and local government financial investments in things like equipment, locations and staffing of poll workers for these new days.

“Voting equipment in our electoral systems is considered critical infrastructure,” she said, but employees like her “fight for adequate funding. We are struggling to get enough staff.”

Hundley also said educating voters about their new option from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will be “crucial”.

“There are nuances that election officials take for granted because we live, eat and breathe elections every day,” she said. “That’s not the case for most of our typical residents.”

Early voting in person typically exists in states that administer county-level elections, such as Ohio, where each county has an early voting site open about a month before Election Day.

Hundley said she is confident Michigan election officials can conduct early in-person voting, especially when aligning with other states.

Hondorp said he’s not sweating about the big change, as employees have had to make changes like direct party voting and absentee ballots in recent years. He also noted that early voting in person will take pressure off voting by mail and voting on the same day.

“I’m not nervous about that because clerks do things,” Hondorp said.

Read more from MLive:

Whitmer leaves the door open to running for president — but not for governor

Michigan House Speaker: GOP candidate campaigns, not Trump, to blame for poor midterm record

How did new county election laws affect Michigan’s midterm elections?

Which Michigan Counties Got Redder, Bluer in 2022?

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