The passage of Proposal 2022-2 by Michigan voters in November 2022 brought numerous changes 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:
Additional changes related to absentee voting, including to signature matching/”curing” and military and overseas voter ballots were also required.
The state Legislature has passed legislation implementing many of the elements of the proposal requirements, and the state Bureau of Elections (BOE) has released guidance, and will continue to do so over the next several months. MTA will continue to share updates as they are available.
Michigan is now required to offer nine days of early in-person voting prior to statewide and federal elections only. (Townships have the option of offering early voting for local elections.) The first election for which early voting will be in effect is Michigan’s 2024 presidential primary, whose date has not yet been finalized.
Public Act 81 of 2023 implements early voting requirements and processes. Under the bill, a township can choose to operate the nine days of early voting on its own. The law also spells out two other options, allowing townships to share costs, equipment and personnel and join with other municipalities or with the county to cooperatively accomplish this new requirement.
If a township joins other municipalities or the county, they must enter into either a municipal or county agreement to do so. County clerks must notify all municipal clerks in their county at least 155 days before the first regularly scheduled statewide or federal election in an even-numbered year whether the county clerk intends to conduct early voting. The clerk must notify the county clerk 150 days before the election whether the township will conduct early voting on its own or in a municipal agreement or a county agreement. In addition, a township can choose to conduct early voting on its own for a presidential primary, and still enter into a municipal or county agreement for the remaining statewide and federal elections to be held in that year, as well as any elections held during the following year, and any other elections covered by the agreement. The township could enter in such an agreement until April 15 of the year of the presidential primary, either through an amendment to an existing agreement that was in effect for the presidential primary, if all parties to that agreement agree, or through a new agreement.
If a township wants to withdraw from a municipal or county agreement, it must provide 30 days’ written notice to all other parties in the agreement. It cannot withdraw during the period beginning 150 days before the first statewide general election in an even-numbered year and ending with the completion of the county canvass for that statewide general election.
Township clerks must provide voters notice of their early voting site within 45 days of the election (if offering with the county, the county clerk may also provide the notice to all electors in the county).
The law required the secretary of state to create model municipal and county agreement templates, as well as model early voting plan templates, which are available on the BOE’s eLearning Center.
The BOE also recently shared deadlines associated with early voting for the presidential primary election if it takes place on Feb. 27 (while the law was changed earlier in the year to hold the presidential primary on Feb. 27, the bill did not receive immediate effect and thus the date is still not certain):
Early voting sites
Municipalities offering early voting on their own, or with other municipalities, must provide the county with an early voting plan at least 120 days before the first statewide or federal election in each even-numbered year, including the municipalities covered, early voting site locations, how voters will be informed about their early voting opportunity and more. The county clerk then provides the SOS with a countywide early voting plan and must certify that every registered voter in every municipality is served by at least one early voting site.
“Early voting sites” operate similar to typical Election Day polling locations, with some additional flexibility—including that they can serve electors from more than six precincts and from more than one municipality within a county and are not subject to limitations on how many electors are assigned to a precinct. PA 81 also offers some additional flexibility in securing polling places and early voting sites.
Early voting sites must be finalized at least 60 days before Election Day.
Security, tabulating and pre-processing
While many of the logistical issues will be determined by the secretary of state—including software changes, agreement and voting plan templates, preventing double votes, and security—PA 81 does include security procedures to be followed for securing tabulators and ballots at the end of each night of early voting.
The law allows all communities to pre-process and tabulate AV ballots before Election Day. Townships with a population of 5,000 or more can pre-process and tabulate AV ballots on any of the eight days—one or more, or all days if desired—prior to Election Day. Any township, regardless of population, can do so the Monday before the election.
Townships that have processed 500 or more same-day registrations in either of the last two November general elections can establish “Election Day vote centers” that would operate as a polling place for same-day registrants. These would have to be in the same building where the clerk provides same-day registration.
The law removed the provision that does not allow a worker to leave an AV counting board before the close of polls on Election Day, and added a provision making it illegal to photograph or record in an AV counting board, with some exceptions. PA 83 of 2023 provides sentencing guidelines for reporting early voting results prior to the close of polls on Election Day, which is a five-year felony, as well as making technical updates.
There must be at least one state-funded AV drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in a jurisdiction, plus an additional drop box for every additional 15,000 registered voters. Public Act 85 of 2023, which puts these provisions into place, clearly states that the SOS is to pay for the drop boxes, their installation, and any required video monitoring (note: this does not, however, include video data storage). Drop boxes must meet all of the following requirements:
The law also outlines considerations for the required “equitable distribution” of a drop box (or drop boxes) throughout the township, including population density and distribution, proximity to parking, and other considerations the clerk may feel is relevant.
The clerk must notify the SOS of drop box placement, which will be included on the state’s website and allow voters to see where a drop box is located in their community.
The law retained the existing statutory requirement for video monitoring on drop boxes installed after October 2020. Beginning in 2026, all drop boxes must have video monitoring. Video monitoring must be in place for the 75 days prior to any election, and any vandalism and suspicious activity occurring near a drop box must be immediately reported to local law enforcement. Townships are responsible for any costs related to video storage and maintenance.
PA 85 of 2023 removes a previous requirement that clerks document the total number of AV ballot return envelopes collected from each drop box.
Clerks can order their required state-paid drop box (or drop boxes, depending on the number of registered voters in the township) using the order form in the BOE’s “Michigan Elections eLearning Center.” Clerks can also view the vendors and available drop boxes on the eLearning Center’s drop box webpage. The bureau will place orders with the vendors at regular intervals, prioritizing those jurisdictions with an August election, then those with a November election, and then the rest of the jurisdictions.
All drop boxes should be ordered prior to the 2024 presidential primary absent voter ballot period. Drop boxes will be delivered directly to the township to the address provided by the clerk. For those jurisdictions with a May or August election that needed to purchase and install a drop box prior to the finalization of the ordering processing, the BOE will provide reimbursement via the drop box reimbursement form available in the eLearning Center.
When using a permit, USPS will send an invoice to the township, indicating postage costs incurred and postage due, and that the amount has been deducted from the township’s advance deposit account (this is the master account established by the State of Michigan). The township should not incur actual charges from these mailings. If a township account has been charged, an invoice and proof of the debit from the account should be submitted to the BOE. According to the bureau, townships can retain the invoices if desired—however, no action is required, and the township will continue to receive them for the life of the permit.
Permits were established using the mailing address listed in the Qualified Voter File (QVF). Clerks were urged to review this information for accuracy and update if necessary. For AV ballot applications and AV ballots to be returned to the correct address, the BOE and USPS must have the township’s correct mailing address to add to the BOE’s statewide postage permit. If the mailing address in the township changes when a new clerk takes office (for example, if it is the clerk’s home address), it is recommended that 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. A mailing address with a PO box will be the PO box only and not include a street address.
Permit information to cover prepaid postage for the return of ballots, ballot applications, or any other materials covered under the prepaid postage requirement in the Michigan Constitution has been provided to all known vendors and to county clerks to distribute to their local jurisdictions for review and usage. The last four digits of the zip code listed in the information provided by county clerks are the ones that have been established by the State of Michigan. If the address associated is incorrect, corrected information should be sent to MDOS-BOEOperations@michigan.gov with the subject line: Permit Correction Needed. You may also send any contact name and/or email address corrections to the same address.
Return envelope information needed to cover prepaid postage must be printed by a vendor and paid directly from the State of Michigan account. This permit cannot be printed from the QVF or from a standard printer and affixed to an envelope. The BOE strongly recommends that jurisdictions begin usage of these permits as soon as possible; however, it is also understood that jurisdictions have existing stock that needs to be utilized. Postage reimbursements will be honored with the appropriate reimbursement form and required documents through 2024 elections. Postage reimbursement requests can be submitted to MDOS-BOEReimbursement@michigan.gov. BOE is currently accepting requests, however, processing has not begun.
Voters can 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 voted for six years.
Public Act 86 of 2023 sets up the process for the permanent AV ballot mailing list. These voters are referred to as “permanent mail ballot voters.” The bill also:
Updated printed and QVF AV ballot applications provide voters with the option to join the permanent AV ballot list. A QVF update now captures a voter’s permanent AV ballot status.
Given that many voters will receive absentee ballots, they will now be allowed to bring their marked absentee ballot to an early voting site or an Election Day precinct and insert them into the tabulator.
Permanent AV and the presidential primary
According to the BOE, the presidential primary poses unique requirements for ballot applications and permanent mail ballot list voters . At least 60 days before the presidential primary, local clerks must send the presidential primary ballot selection form to permanent mail ballot voters who have not made a political party ballot selection. If the voter does not return the form at least 40 days before the presidential primary election, the clerk must notify the voter via phone, email, and text message, if available, of the requirement to make a party ballot selection to receive a presidential primary ballot. If a voter becomes a permanent mail ballot voter after the clerk has sent out the presidential primary ballot selection forms and the voter has not made a ballot selection, the clerk must immediately send the voter a presidential primary ballot selection form, with prepaid return postage.
Permanent mail ballot voters who have not made a party ballot selection before the election must be sent a ballot with any offices or proposals other than president, along with a notice that indicates both that the voter did not receive a presidential primary election ballot because they did not make a ballot selection and the process by which they can still participate in the election. This notice form will be distributed by BOE ahead of the election.
Public Act 82 of 2023 prescribes the signature matching and curing process for clerks and election inspectors to use for mismatched or missing signatures on AV applications and ballot return envelopes. The law sets guidance for comparing signatures and allows voters whose signature “does not agree sufficiently” with the signature on file to “cure” any deficiencies using a new “cure form” to be developed by the SOS.
Clerks must notify an elector of any deficiency within one business day of receipt (for those envelopes received within six or more calendar days of the election), and can do so by telephone, email or text message. Those received within five days of the election must be notified of deficiencies by the end of the same business day received. An AV application or return envelope is not considered received until the “first subsequent day on which the clerk has scheduled business hours.”
AV ballot return envelopes can be cured up to three days after an election. If a deficiency is cured within those three days, the ballot is tabulated.
The law also codifies the use of a driver’s license or state ID signature on file with the secretary of state for applying for an AV ballot online and strikes the identification requirement for applying for an AV ballot in the clerk’s office except for the day before Election Day.
Proposal 2 also requires a state-funded tracking system for submitted AV applications and ballots, including electronic status notifications. Public Act 84 of 2023 requires the secretary of state to create the new tracking system, which also must inform the voter of any deficiencies with either the application or ballot and provide instructions for addressing such deficiencies. The legislation exempts voters’ phone numbers and email addresses from the Freedom of Information Act.
Public Act 25 of 2023, which was signed in to law in May with immediate effect, was the first Proposal 2 implementation bill to go into effect. The law requires absentee ballots of military and overseas voters (MOVE) to be counted if they are received within six days after the election if the return envelope is postmarked on or before Election Day. PA 25 also provides the process to be used if the postmark is not legible, indicates how these ballots will be tabulated and updates the instructions for absentee voters.
Additional election law changes include:
Voter identification for election purposes. Public Act 87 of 2023 modifies the types of photo identification that can be used for election purposes to conform with Proposal 2. The act provides a definition for “educational institution,” now in the state Constitution, and replaces previous language that referenced universities and colleges. The law also adds photo identification issued by a local government to the types of ID that can be used for election purposes.
Increased precinct size. Public Act 88 of 2023 allows municipalities to increase their precincts to up to 5,000 active registered voters from the current 2,999. The act also removes the provision in law that proscribes the number of voting machines a precinct should have. While the legislation is not a requirement of Proposal 2, it was included to realize savings by requiring fewer numbers of voting equipment and resources, such as absentee voter counting board tabulators, to meet the election needs per precinct.