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Many local elections officials won't pre-process absentee ballots, Michigan Department of State says

Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

More than 1.8 million Michigan voters have requested to vote absentee this election cycle. Of that number, fewer than half — about 770,000 — have returned a ballot, according to the Secretary of State's office.

But many election officials are saying they won’t take advantage of a new law that allows them to complete some pre-processing of those ballots a couple of days before election day.

Michigan Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow said that could be due to limits within the law.

“It only allows some pre-processing to get basically up to reviewing … the number on the ballot, but you can’t actually remove the ballot out of the secrecy sleeve and start to flatten it, get it ready for tabulation,” Rollow said in a call with reporters Tuesday.

Rollow added many clerks may have already hired their staff before the law changed — meaning it could have also been too late for them to prepare for pre-processing.

Despite the limitations, the agency said it hopes to have unofficial election results ready within 24 hours of polls closing.

During the call, Rollow also touched upon a recent court ruling against guidance the Secretary of State issued earlier this year on handling poll challengers. The state is appealing. Rollow said that’s to get further understanding on the ruling.

“Our goal is always to provide clarity and instruction to the 1,500 city and township clerks across the state so that they’re not all interpreting the law differently,” Rollow said.

The guidance had restricted communication for poll challengers and their use of electronic devices.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Colin Jackson