Jun 13, 2023 - Politics

Michigan lawmakers implement early voting, Prop 2 changes

Illustration of a voting booth surrounded by crumpled hundred-dollar bills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Major changes to how Michiganders vote are being advanced through the Legislature.

Why it matters: As lawmakers work to approve the changes included in last November's Prop 2, elections officials are calling the updates the most significant election law changes the state has ever seen.

  • The constitutional amendment allows nine days of early voting and other new voting rights.
  • A cost estimate prepared by the secretary of state shows the amendment will cost $63 million in initial costs and then $21 million annually.

The intrigue: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an elections bill in May, a provision in Prop 2 that allows military and overseas ballots to be received and counted within six days of an election.

  • Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who chairs the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee, tells Axios the 16-bill package has been prioritized ahead of other issues so the changes can be implemented ahead of next year's Feb. 27 presidential primary.

Between the lines: During a Senate hearing last Thursday, small-town clerks spoke about the challenges they are facing by asking their county boards for increased funding despite the law not being passed yet.

  • Saginaw County Clerk Vanessa Guerra, who spoke in favor of the changes representing the Michigan Association of County Clerks, said her office will need to hire several more staff members to accommodate the new early-voting period.

Yes, but: The law would also give local municipalities the ability to allow voting within 29 days of an election, so large communities like Detroit could take advantage of the law to prevent long lines.

The other side: State Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), a former secretary of state and Oakland County clerk, argued the idea would be unfair to smaller communities.

  • "If one has nine and one has 29, the one with 29 has far more access than the one with nine," she said.
  • Republicans who spoke against the proposed changes during last week’s Senate hearing also raised concerns about election fraud.

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