A package of bills intended to implement Proposal 2 was introduced this week and taken up for a Senate Elections and Ethics Committee hearing this afternoon. Senate Bills 367 to 374, sponsored primarily by committee members, provide an outline for the new constitutional requirements local governments will be required to administer in future elections.
When Proposal 2 passed last November, it enshrined several rights for Michigan voters, including a fundamental right to vote, at least nine days of early voting, and permanent absentee voting in all elections. It also requires every municipality to have at least one drop box per 15,000 registered voters. Workgroups, including lawmakers, municipal clerks, SOS officials, and many other stakeholders, have been working to craft language since the passage of the ballot proposal. This bill package is a result of those discussions.
Working with some of our members, the League provided feedback sought by the committee chair, Sen. Jeremy Moss, on the bills as introduced. One point we have continued to stress is the critical need to ensure local governments have the funding necessary to implement all election requirements, both existing and new. Sen. Moss has acknowledged this need and said those discussions are ongoing. We will continue working with him and House and Senate Appropriations Committees throughout the budget process to ensure this stays a priority on their radar.
Today’s hearing was testimony only, though it’s expected the bill package will be voted out of committee to the full Senate next week. An identical bill package, HBs 4695 to 4702, will be taken up for testimony in the House Elections Committee tomorrow following session. Those bills are also expected to be voted out of committee next week and sent to the full House of Representatives.
Below is a summary of the introduced bills:
- SB 367 and SB 368: These bills outline the process for implementing and administering the constitutionally required nine consecutive days of early voting, for eight hours per day, for each statewide and Federal election. They also would allow a municipality to set additional days and hours of early voting beyond what is constitutionally required and to use early voting for elections that were not statewide or Federal. In addition, they would allow more than one municipality to jointly conduct early voting through a municipal or county agreement and prescribe the requirements of those agreements. The bills would make disclosing an election result from an early voting site before 8 PM on election day a felony.
- SB 369: Allows voters to submit one absent voter application to receive absent voter ballots for every future election, becoming permanent mail ballot voters. Additionally, the bill would allow a permanent mail ballot voter to select or change the political party ballot that the voter wished to receive for a presidential primary election by filling out a ballot selection form. Lastly, the bill would allow all election returns, ballots containing a federal office, and all presidential primary ballot selection forms to be destroyed 22 months post-election.
- SB 370 and SB 371: These bills would delete many currently required processes for absentee voter applications and ballots and establish new ones. Among other changes, they would allow an application for an absent voter ballot to be made using an online application provided by the Secretary of State (SOS) and provide new requirements that a clerk would have to follow concerning the curing of ballots and the notifying of absentee voters about their applications and ballots.
- SB 372: The bill would require each city or township to install at least one absent voter ballot drop box to collect absent voter applications and ballots. It also would require a city or township to have one drop box per 15,000 registered electors. The Secretary of State (SOS) would have to facilitate and fund implementation of these requirements. In addition, the bill would modify current drop box security requirements.
- SB 373: Allows a current photo identification card issued by a local government to be used for election purposes by including it in the definition of “identification for election purposes” and defining “educational institution.”
- SB 374: The bill would increase the maximum size of an election precinct from 2,999 active registered electors to 5,000. It also removes provisions specifying the number of voting machines per voter in certain size precincts. It requires an election commission or the Secretary of State to consider only active registered voters when determining the number of registered voters in a precinct.
Dave Hodgkins is a legislative associate with the League. He may be reached at [email protected].