Michigan Municipal Leauge Review Magazine March/April 2023

Early Voting From a policy standpoint, the most significant change—and the one most likely to present challenges for clerks around the state—is the mandatory early voting period. Michigan now joins 23 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting early voting. For the first time in state history, all Michigan jurisdictions will be required to offer early voting for a minimum of nine days in advance of statewide or federal elections. “While it is likely to ease congestion at election day voting precincts, especially on and around college campuses that experienced massive voting lines in the 2022 general election, early voting is certain to create new financial burdens for local communities,” Swope said. “Nothing in the constitutional amendment requires the state to underwrite any of the costs of implementing early voting, so local clerks and their units of government likely will be on the hook for staffing, security, equipment, and other expenses.”

The constitutional amendment also requires early voting to mirror the election precinct experience, where voters complete their ballot then feed it into the counting machine. In addition, more than six election precincts can be combined in one early voting location and multiple jurisdictions within a county can join together to offer early voting. While multijurisdictional collaboration can go a long way toward spreading the financial burden among the individual partners, Swope noted that how these arrangements will work in practice remains to be seen. The new constitutional requirements also specify that only election officials are authorized to conduct election audits, which precludes the sort of independent election audits pursued by several organizations in the 2020 election cycle. And, after past controversies over private funding to support the administration of public elections, the new constitutional language makes clear that private entities are authorized to make donations to support election administration so long as the donations are publicly disclosed and that the source of the donation is not a “foreign source.”




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