Michigan Townships Association

Proposal 2022-2 Guidance

Guidance issued, questions remain on Proposal 2022-2

The passage of Proposal 2022-2 by Michigan voters in November brings many changes—and lingering uncertainties—to local elections, and for the clerks who administer them and townships that fund them.

Proposal 2 enshrined numerous new voter rights in the state constitution, including four key elements: prepaid return postage for absent voter (AV) applications and ballots, a permanent AV list, required AV ballot drop-boxes, and early in-person voting for statewide and federal elections. The BOE has advised that technical implementation of the proposal’s provisions will take months; however, the bureau has begun issuing guidance as it applies to the May 2 election.

Prepaid postage
Proposal 2 requires state-funded postage for voters to return their AV ballot application and ballot. The BOE is working with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to establish a permit process by which each jurisdiction will be able to print applications and ballot envelopes with a permit that will be billed to the state. This process will take several months, however.

All clerks must check their mailing address in the Qualified Voter File (QVF) to ensure the upcoming return mail permit program works correctly in your township. For AV ballot applications and ballots to be returned to the correct address, the BOE and USPS must have your correct mailing address to add to the BOE’s statewide postage permit. If the mailing address in your township changes when a new clerk takes office (for example, if it is the clerk’s home address), it is recommended the township establish a post office box as the clerk mailing address. For mail to be routed to the correct address, the BOE must maintain an accurate, up-to-date mailing list.

For the May 2 election, the 75-day AV ballot application period began Feb. 16. While townships cannot yet print AV applications with return postage using the state permit, the state will reimburse municipalities for return postage costs on AV applications. Townships have several options for applying return postage to AV applications:

  • If a township has a USPS permit, it could print the AV application out of the QVF and place it in a return envelope pre-printed with the township’s USPS permit. Alternatively, townships could have a print vendor produce AV applications (envelope or postcard) with the USPS permit.
  • If a township does not have a permit, townships could run AV application return envelopes or postcards through a postage meter to apply return postage, or apply stamps manually. Pre-printed postcard applications in which the return section folds over into the application would need to be opened to apply postage and then resealed. This option may not be available for larger jurisdictions that use vendor-printed postcard applications and do not have a permit that the vendor can print on postcards. In this situation, you should discuss with your vendor (and legal counsel, if necessary) to determine the best option.

The BOE was to provide further guidance for return postage on ballot envelopes in advance of the March 23 deadline to mail AV ballots to voters; that information was not available as of Township Focus press time.

Proposal 2 also requires a state-funded tracking system for submitted AV applications and ballots, including electronic notifications and remedies for any application or ballot deficiencies.

Key issues and implementation steps

  • Prepaid postage and ballot tracking likely require design changes to applications and ballot envelopes for optimal implementation
  • Jurisdiction mailing practices vary widely
  • USPS and application/envelope print vendor approval and design process can take many months
  • Changes needed to programming of QVF and Michigan.gov/Vote to facilitate tracking information and interaction with vendor products

Ballot drop boxes
Proposal 2 requires that there be at least one state-funded AV drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in the jurisdiction. The bureau has begun an RFP process to solicit bids for vendors to supply drop boxes. Once contracts are awarded, BOE will provide a catalogue of drop boxes to clerks, who will then be able to order them. Once the ordering process becomes available, jurisdictions will be prioritized based on their next election date. All will be completed by the AV ballot application period prior to the 2024 presidential primary.

Because drop boxes will not be available for the upcoming May election, BOE will reimburse jurisdictions with a May 2 election for their costs in acquiring a drop box if they do not currently have an AV drop box or the required number of AV drop boxes. Drop boxes may be purchased or borrowed from neighboring jurisdictions that do not have a May election.

Key issues and implementation steps

  • Statewide purchase of drop boxes represents a substantial procurement effort; vendor capability to produce at scale and timeline
  • Up to 2,000 drop boxes may be needed
  • Statutory requirements for secure drop boxes represent financial and logistical challenges for many jurisdictions
  • Previous drop-box chain of custody procedures were passed by Legislature late 2022

Permanent AV ballot list
Proposal 2 provides that voters may complete a single AV application to receive an AV ballot in all future elections. This is required for all jurisdictions and all elections. According to the BOE, permanent AV status moves with the voter when they update their registration address within the state, including across jurisdictions. Voters are removed from the list upon request, with cancellation of voter registration, with reliable information that the voter has moved from the registration address, or if the voter has not voter for six years.

An updated AV ballot application is available for the May 2, election as well as an updated QVF AV application. The AV application includes an option to join the permanent AV ballot list (not an application list). Additional changes will likely be made to the AV application for future elections, pending further implementation of Proposal 2022-2 and any statutory changes that are made.

Key issues and implementation steps

  • Updating all AV ballot applications to allow the option to join the permanent list
  • Updating the QVF to collect and track permanent AV status
  • Considerations for overlapping with other AV status, such as miliary and overseas voters
  • Distinguishing from preexisting permanent AV voter application lists
  • Training for clerks
  • Voter education and outreach

Early voting
Proposal 2 requires jurisdictions to provide at least nine days of early in-person voting for statewide and federal elections. The first election with required nine days of early voting will be the 2024 presidential primary. For local elections, local units may provide the option of early voting. Townships and other municipalities within a county may share early voting sites hosted by municipality or county.

Many changes must put in place to prepare for early voting, including programming changes to voting machines to ensure ballots can be tabulated prior to Election Day—with the results not available until Election Day—and updated electronic pollbooks to check in early voters, verify their registration and ensure they have not already returned a ballot elsewhere. Additionally, it is anticipated the Legislature will provide statutory requirements regarding the early voting process. At this time, the state has not developed the technical resources to support early voting for the May election.

Key issues and implementation steps

  • Programming voting equipment
  • Clerk and poll worker training, including retention and management of voted ballots at combined precinct sites
  • Early voting electronic pollbook/voter check-in tool
  • Logistics and resources to support staff early voting sites
  • Public outreach and education

Statutory guidance—and funding—needed
Election officials need statutory guidance on the details of implementing parts of Proposal 2, including those issues previously mentioned, as well as how postmarked ballots that arrive after Election Day will be processed by clerks, tabulated and shared with county canvassing boards. In addition, additional funding is necessary for costs associated with early voting, including staffing, equipment and polling places, staffing for AV processing, drop box security, and additional equipment and permanent staffing that may result from election changes.

The BOE is continuing to gather questions and concerns from clerks as it works through the implementation process. Send your inquiries directly to the bureau at boeregulatory@michigan.gov or to MTA’s Legislative Association Mike Batterbee at mikeb@michigantownships.org. Continue to watch MTA emails, website and future issues of Township Focus for continued updates as they become available.