Michigan Secretary of State pushes for election policy changes
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Before the upcoming primary and general elections, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is pushing to change election policies.
Absentee voting has been on the rise, especially since the pandemic began. Marquette City Clerk Kyle Whitney said the high number of absentee ballots makes it nearly impossible to announce winners on election night.
“We only have so many people that are willing and able to work in our absent voter counting board to process absentee ballots, we are only able to purchase so many machines to process the balance on election day, and we have space limitations,” said Whitney.
Benson wants the state legislature to allow pre-processing of absentee ballots statewide, which larger municipalities could do two years ago.
“Michigan voters often do not have unofficial results on election night or shortly after the polls close and have to sometimes wait up to 24 hours to get them,” said Benson.
Other proposals from Benson would spend $100 million of state money a year on local election access, equipment, technology and security. Increase penalties for anyone who threatens election workers and allow military service members and their spouses overseas to return their ballots electronically.
“Each of these proposals is essential in protecting the rights of our voters and our democracy,” said Benson.
Secretary Benson’s proposals face an uncertain future in the Republican-led legislature. The chair of the senate elections committee says Benson isn’t spending enough time working with the legislature to improve Michigan’s election systems.
Senator Ruth Johnson said the legislature has passed commonsense election reforms with bipartisan support – only to have the governor veto the bills.
For local election clerks, Whitney said the proposal for absentee ballot processing would be a big help.
“The ability to start the work of processing absentee ballots ahead of 7:00 a.m. on election day would be very beneficial for our office,” said Whitney.
Next, Benson’s proposals would need to be introduced and approved in the legislature before they could go to the governor’s desk.
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