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‘Threatens American democracy’ -- Top election official says 4 changes ‘critically needed’ in Michigan

(WJRT)
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 12:08 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan’s top election official is calling for legislative changes ahead of the 2022 statewide elections.

Tuesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said four changes were needed to ensure the upcoming election is free, fair and safe. She called on legislators to implement the changes that she says would benefit Republican, Democratic and Independent voters.

She explained her reasoning in a statement sent to News 10.

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“Michigan voters deserve election results on election night and for their elections to be sufficiently funded. Election workers and officials need the state’s protection to continue doing their jobs with integrity, and our military service members and their spouses ... must have certainty that their ballot will be counted here at home,” said Benson. “The strength and security of Michigan’s elections are second to none, but these four legislative changes are critically needed by election clerks on both sides of the aisle and Republican, Democratic and Independent voters statewide.”

The changes include stricter penalties for election sabotage, making it easier for the military to vote, giving state funds to townships for running elections and measures for improving ballot processing time.

Have election results on election night by allowing preprocessing of absentee ballots.

Similar to how states such as Florida, Kentucky and Ohio handle abentee voting, Benson requested the legislature allow Michigan’s absentee ballots to be counted before Election Day, and then have unofficial election results on election night.

Currently, Michigan law does not allow absentee ballot processing to begin until Election Day, leading to a delay Bensons said is not well-understood by many voters.

“Election deniers exploit this and spread misinformation that undermines well-placed faith in our elections and threatens American democracy,” Benson said. “In February 2022, both the associations of the municipal and county clerks called on the Legislature to allow preprocessing.”

Give state funding to local governments.

Benson said the Legislature should dedicate $100 million annually directly to Michigan townships, cities, and counties.

She said that providing stable funding is intended to allow the local governments to acquire technology, security and equipment they may need.

Increase penalties for anyone who threatens or attacks election workers.

“Election officials, workers, and volunteers are increasingly the targets of threats and harassment in Michigan and across the country,” Benson said. “They play a critical role in our democracy and need to be protected.”

Let overseas military service members and their spouses return their ballots electronically.

In the 2020 presidential election, around 25% of military ballots were returned too late to be counted, or simply never arrived. Benson says that’s due to Michigan’s current ballot collection system relying on international mail.

“Michigan is behind many other states by requiring overseas military and their spouses to rely on unpredictable international mail to return their ballots,” Benson said.

She said that the delays in international mail in 2020 could potentially have disenfranchised around 1,600 military members.

Michigan’s primary elections will be held on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. The general election is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

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