Michigan officials expect record-breaking turnout for the Nov. 3 election and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a few last-minute bills into law to speed the process and ensure every ballot is counted.
On Tuesday, Whitmer signed Senate Bill 757, passed by the House and Senate in September, to allow clerks in cities and townships with at least 25,000 people to start processing absentee ballots Nov. 2. The ballots can’t be tabulated until 7 a.m. on election day, however.
While the move is a “step in the right direction” per Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, it’s not enough, she said. States like Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida allow more time for processing – sometime weeks more, Benson said.
The change won’t significantly alter when the results will be ready, Benson said.
“We still expect that it will be the Friday of election week that we expect every ballot will be tabulated,” Benson said, noting it could be sooner.
This is the first presidential election in Michigan since voters passed a proposal allowing absentee voting without needing a specific reason.
The law also requires clerks to notify absentee voters if their ballot won’t be counted within 48 hours of receiving it – like for a missing signature, for example. This helps make sure every vote is counted, Whitmer said.
Senate Bill 117 was also supposed to be signed Tuesday, but Whitmer said Republican leadership didn’t send her the bill yet – despite it passing through both chambers of the Legislature.
The bill allows military members and their spouses to return ballots electronically through a secure portal if they can’t be returned in person. Benson’s husband served with the military in Afghanistan in 2004 and attempted to vote, she said, but couldn’t because a law like this wasn’t on the books.
“For some reason, the Republican leaders in the Legislature chose not to send me this bill yet,” Whitmer said. “I’m not sure what’s going on there, but this is crucial for our brave folks and their families who serve in the military. Elections are no time to play partisan games.”
More than 2.7 million ballots have been requested in Michigan so far, and 2.6 million of them have been issued to voters. Nearly 400,000 have been filled out and received back.
Here’s a look at which cities have the most requests for ballots, along with how many have been issued and how many have been submitted:
- Detroit: 124,400 (108,065 issued, 12,426 received)
- Grand Rapids: 51,711 (51,124 issued, 11,633 received)
- Ann Arbor: 47,645 (43,827 issued, 3,108 received)
- Livonia: 35,722 (35,457 issued, 8,071 received)
- Sterling Heights: 34,815 (33,670 issued, 3,836 received)
More than 450 communities have had at least 1,000 people request an absentee ballot so far.
Michigan residents can check their voter registration, register to vote and track the status of their absentee ballot at Michigan.gov/vote.
The state is also launching an advertising effort this week to put ads on social media, the internet, TV and the back of ATM receipts to inform residents about the ways they can vote. Absentee ballot applications are also being inserted in dozens of newspapers and available at all Michigan Kroger stores.
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