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Michigan election gave communities more time to handle absentee ballots

Voting ballot drop box
Wikimedia Commons
Creative Commons 2.0
Voting ballot drop box

Absentee voting is a popular way to participate in Michigan since eligibility rules were eased in 2018.

Michigan's presidential primary was the first time that communities in the state had the ability to count absentee ballots days before the Tuesday election.

Absentee voting is a popular way to participate in Michigan since eligibility rules were greatly eased in 2018. But it took another change in law in 2023 to give local clerks more time to handle the flood of envelopes.

Many cities and townships now can run absentee ballots through tabulator machines starting eight days before the election. No results could be publicly released, however, until after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“That took a lot of the burden off Election Day tabulation of absentee ballots,” said Michael Siegrist, the clerk in Wayne County's Canton Township. “Michigan had been held hostage by antiquated laws and procedures.”

He said 10,000 of Canton's 11,000 absentee ballots were processed by Tuesday morning.

More than 1.2 million absentee ballots were issued to Michigan voters, according to the secretary of state.

In the 2020 general election, more than 3 million absentee ballots were cast in the state, overwhelming some communities, which couldn't open envelopes until election eve. Then-President Donald Trump and his allies falsely said delays in finalizing results were evidence of fraud.

“When it takes a while for results to come in, there’s a vacuum,” Siegrist said. “Sometimes misinformation or disinformation fills that vacuum. That's what we saw in the 2020 election.”

In Warren, a Detroit suburb, election workers were sworn in Tuesday before handling thousands of absentee ballots.

“Our absentee counting board workers are well-trained and work very hard to process each and every ballot received,” said Sonja Buffa, the city clerk.

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