Last week, Governor Whitmer signed HB 4491, now PA 195 of 2022, which amends several aspects of the election process, including procedures for updating the qualified voter file (QVF), adjusts the protocol for the preprocessing of ballots ahead of Elections Day, and chain of command procedures involving. Members may recall larger legislative packages in the House and Senate that address a wide array of election-focused reforms. The key changes that impact our members are summarized below:
Changes to QVF procedures:
- The responsibility of removing deceased voters from the QVF will now be shifted to the county clerks rather than being shared with township and city clerks. Beginning January 1, 2023, when the county clerk updates the QVF to remove deceased votes, an electronic notification will be sent to city and township clerks to complete the cancellation.
- If the Secretary of State (SOS) removes the registration of a deceased voter from the QVF within 24 hours, the electronic notification must be transmitted to the city and township clerk to finalize the cancellation.
- Beginning January 1, 2023, between the first Friday in July before an August election and 16 days before that election, and between the first Friday in October before a November election and 16 days before that election, each county clerk would have to update the QVF to remove deceased voters weekly, by the close of business on Friday. Between 15 days and one day before an election, each county clerk would have to update the QVF daily by the close of business. The county clerk would have to notify city and township clerks of any voter registrations that need to be canceled after 4 p.m. on the day before an election so that the clerk can cancel the registration.
Pre-processing of ballots:
- PA 151 of 2022 would remove a 2020 sunset on provisions that allowed clerks in cities or townships with a population of at least 25,000 to perform specific absent voter (AV) ballot preprocessing activities before Election Day, as long as they gave notice of that action to the SOS at least 20 days before Election Day. These provisions currently only apply for activities relating to the November 2020 general election, but the bill would enact these provisions indefinitely for all primary and general elections. However, the minimum population would also be reduced from 25,000 to 10,000.
- City and township clerks would have to post the notice they provided to the SOS on that city’s or township’s website at least seven business days before the relevant election. If the location or hours of the preprocessing activities change from what was listed in the original posting, the local clerk must post a new notice at least 24 hours before preprocessing begins.
- Clerks or designees would be allowed to open the outer/return envelopes containing an absentee ballot inside a secrecy sleeve between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the Sunday and Monday before Election Day to verify that the ballot number on the ballot stub agrees with the ballot number on the AV ballot return envelope label and to remove the secrecy sleeve from the outer envelope for storage in a secure container. The procedure must include the following below:
- The election inspectors would have to record the following in the poll book.
- The number of AV ballot return envelopes opened on the Sunday before Election Day.
- The number of AV ballot return envelopes opened on the Monday before Election Day.
- The number of AV ballot return envelopes delivered to inspectors that did not contain a voter’s signature and that were returned to the city or township clerk.
- The number of AV ballot return envelopes that were challenged, not opened by inspectors, and set aside to be processed by inspectors on Election Day.
Absentee Voter ballot secrecy envelope container:
- AV ballot secrecy containers must be submitted to and approved by the SOS before use.
- Containers must be capable of being sealed and made up of tamper-resistant metal, plastic, fiberglass, or other material.
- Clerks may procure approved containers at their own expense or use the traditional ballot containers described in the code.
- PA 151 of 2022 also requires that after October 20, 2022, each board of county canvasser must examine the containers to be used during the November 8, 2022, general election and determine whether they meet the specific requirements.
- If a city or township does not use these containers, that local unit’s board of county canvassers would have to examine any AV ballot secrecy envelope containers to be used in a 2024 August and/or November election by June 1, 2024.
- By June 1, 2026, and by June 1, every four years after that, each board of county canvassers would have to reexamine the secrecy envelope containers to be used at the upcoming August and/or November election.
Absentee Voter Drop Boxes:
- As of 2021, security measures have been implemented to provide for the secure transmission of ballots from the AV drop box to the Clerks’ possession. Beginning October 20, 2022, all drop boxes must adhere to the following requirements, except for video monitoring.
- Drop boxes ordered or installed after October 1, 2022, must equip video monitoring by January 1, 2023. All drop boxes ordered and installed before October 1, 2022, will remain exempt from this requirement.
- The following must apply to drop boxes ordered or installed after October 1, 2020:
- The drop box must be securely locked and bolted to the ground or another stationary object.
- The drop box must be equipped with a single slot or mailbox-style lever to allow AV ballot return envelopes to be placed in the drop box, and all other openings on the drop box must be securely locked.
- The city or township clerk must use video monitoring of that drop box.
- The drop box must be in a public, well-lit area with good visibility.
- The city or township clerk must report immediately to local law enforcement any vandalism involving the drop box or any suspicious activity occurring in the immediate vicinity.
- Beginning October 20, 2022, and until the 2022 November general election, a city or township clerk, deputy clerk, or sworn staff member would have to regularly inspect each drop box to confirm that it complies with this section’s requirements.
- Beginning January 1, 2023, these individuals would have to regularly inspect the drop boxes starting 75 days before each Election Day and up through the election. Starting 15 days before Election Day, they would have to collect any deposited election materials from the drop box on any day the clerk’s office is open for business.
- When a clerk, deputy clerk, or sworn staff member collects absent voter ballot return envelopes, that individual would have to immediately return the envelopes to the clerk’s office unless traveling to another drop box. All absent voter ballot return envelopes would have to be transported in an approved ballot container or AV ballot secrecy envelope container.
- Beginning October 20, 2022, municipal clerks would have to record each time absentee ballot return envelopes are collected from a drop box in that city except for drop boxes located on the grounds of a clerk’s office or a satellite office.
- Clerks would have to maintain this documentation for at least 22 months after the election, which would have to include the following:
- The date the return envelopes were collected from the drop box.
- The number of return envelopes collected from the drop box.
- The names of the individuals who collected the return envelopes.
- The location in the city or township of the drop box.
- Clerks are also now required to post the number of AV ballots distributed to absentee voters and the number of AV ballot return envelopes returned through Election Day and maintain a record that reconciles the number of AV ballots received by the clerk in the QVF.
Herasanna Richards is a legislative associate handling energy, environmental, elections, and external municipal services for the League. She can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0309.