Michigan Republicans scale back proposed restriction on ballot drop boxes

Drop boxes would close at 5 p.m. under latest proposal instead of not accepting any ballots on Election Day
Absentee ballot drop boxes.
Absentee ballot drop boxes.(Hawaii News Now/file)
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 11:07 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Senate Republicans have relaxed legislation that would have prohibited the use of absentee ballot drop boxes on Election Day.

Instead of not allowing absentee ballots to be placed in drop boxes at any time in Election Day, Republicans are proposing to close them at 5 p.m. -- three hours before Michigan polls close. The change, which isn’t appeasing opponents, was announced Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Ed McBroom said the goal is to let clerks gather and process ballots earlier “so they’re not out after hours working all night to process thousands and thousands of ballots.”

But critics of the legislation, including local election administrators, say drop boxes should remain open until 8 p.m. and are convenient and secure.

The ballot drop box bill is one of 39 that Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature introduced in March. The election reform package compromises Senate Bills 273 to 311, which all were referred to the Senate Elections Committee.

The bills cover a wide variety of processes before, during and after an election. Highlights include:

  • Ballot security in drop boxes by restricting hours people can drop off ballots.
  • Ensuring Michigan’s Qualified Voter File remains updated.
  • Requiring voters to present their driver’s license, state ID card or a copy to obtain an absentee ballot.
  • Training requirements for poll challengers.
  • Transparency in the ballot auditing process.
  • Allowing 16-year-olds to preregister to vote when they receive their first driver’s license.
  • Improving challengers’ access to absentee ballot counting work.
  • Allowing video and audio recording of vote tabulation and ballot auditing.
  • Restricting unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications.
  • Improving the process of overseas military personnel to vote.
  • Allowing large communities to preprocess absentee ballots a day before Election Day (without officially counting them).

Former Republican Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who is now a state senator from Holly, backs the proposed election changes and is sponsoring 16 of the bills. Current Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has condemned the package of bills as attempted voter suppression.

Benson laid out a broad election reform plan in February, some of which conflicts directly with the Republican proposals.

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