by Bill Richardson | August 16, 2023
As most of you know, Proposal 2 of 2022 brings with it the opportunity to vote early in person. What you may not know is exactly where you will be able to vote early in-person, or that the decision of where you vote early is left up to your local clerk.
Local clerks may find it easier to leave the early voting up to the county or join in with other local municipalities in ‘agreements’ so they don’t have to deal with 9 additional days of election season. The state may also offer them incentives to join into a county or municipal agreement and not conduct the early voting themselves.
Here are the reasons you may care about your local clerk holding their own early election days in your municipality (and not joining in with other municipalities in an ‘agreement).
You are less likely to know the election workers in a different municipality and therefore may not know who is handling your ballot and recording your vote.
Chances are you will have to drive farther to get to the early voting location since the whole idea with a county agreement is to host multiple municipalities in one location, meaning fewer locations throughout the state compared to election day, and a longer drive for most voters.
Your ballot may be combined with other municipality's ballots as they combine precincts, township, and cities. This becomes important if a recount is required and they have to filter through several other types of ballots to find your municipality's ballots.
Lines are likely to be longer during early voting days at consolidated voting locations since these locations are serving multiple municipalities and not just yours.
Here are the reasons your local clerk may care about conducting their own early voting:
They are still responsible for processing all absentee ballots.
They are still responsible for conducting election day voting.
They are still responsible for their municipality's vote count, whether they join into one of these agreements or conduct their own early voting. And if they enter into an agreement, someone else will have managed all the early voting day ballots for their municipality.
Nothing in the new legislation takes away your clerk’s responsibility to balance the final vote count for all races on the ballot and ballot proposals in your municipality.
With all the new election laws, your local clerk may be unsure about taking on early in person voting, but they should not be discouraged. The requirements aren't that complicated. The basics are as follows:
Municipalities must hold early voting and election day voting at a suitable location. The location must be publicly owned unless this is not possible.
Municipalities must give notice of the early voting location and polling location, including relevant hours of operation to each voter in their municipality at least 45 days before the election.
At least 150 days before the first regularly scheduled statewide or federal election, the clerk of each municipality shall notify the county clerk of how they want to conduct early voting in their municipality (county agreement, municipal agreement, or as their own single municipality).
For the February Presidential Primary election, this means a due date of September 30th to notify the county clerk of their intention.
If they decide after the presidential primary in February that they want to enter into a county or municipal agreement, they have until April 15th to do so.
Municipalities that decide to hold their own early voting:
Must provide a suitable voting location (discussed above).
Must allow at least 8 hours of voting for each of the 9 early voting days.
Other ‘normal’ election day requirements apply including number of poll workers, equal party representation among workers, etc.
As you can see, if you are a local clerk, conducting your own early voting days should not be too complicated. The biggest challenges will likely be finding a suitable building and enough election workers to conduct 9 consecutive days of early voting.
Also, the state has allocated funds to allow local municipalities to conduct their own early voting days, so cost should not be deterrent.
We have tried to consolidate critical steps here for the purposes of this notification. Other details need to be clarified further at a future date by the secretary of state's office. Clerks should verify this information for themselves. You can review the complete details at this link:
If you are not comfortable with the federal government taking over your state elections, you may want to question the county taking over your township or city elections.
Contact your local clerk today if you want them to keep your early election days local.
A sample letter to a local clerk is shown below if you aren’t sure what to say.
Sample letter for your clerk if you want them to hold their own early voting in the next federal or state election.
Please send this as soon as possible since local clerks are already entering into county agreements for early voting. If they have signed, there are provisions for a withdrawal from early voting agreements.
To the Clerk of [name of your city or township],
As you are probably aware, Proposal 2 brings with it early in-person voting requirements for all state and federal elections. The first one of these requirements will be next February's presidential primary election.
I am requesting, as a resident of [name of your city or township], that you perform early voting in our township [or city] and NOT enter into a “county agreement” or “municipal agreement.” I request this for the following reasons:
1. I want to vote in my own hometown where people I know and trust are running the election process.
2. I don’t want my ballot mixed in amongst other dis-similar ballots from other municipalities, which is likely to happen if our township joins into an ‘agreement’ with other municipalities.
3. I shouldn’t be expected to drive to a different township or [your closest major city] to cast my vote for issues in ‘[your local city or township]’. This takes more of my time and money to exercise my right to vote.
Lastly, this is why you should care about holding your own early voting days in ‘[your local city or township]’. As the clerk of ‘[your local city or township]’, you still have to manage all absentee ballots and election day ballots. And you are responsible for the final vote reconciliation of ‘[your local city or township]’, even if you participated in a county or municipal agreement. Nothing in the new election laws takes away your responsibility as our clerk to reconcile ALL of our voters’ ballots. And if our early voting ballots are mixed in with other municipalities ballots, this will be a major challenge to audit.
My understanding according to Senate Bill 367 is you have to communicate your preference to the county clerk 150 days before the election. For the February presidential primary this means September 30th. The county clerk is required to communicate to all municipal clerks within its jurisdiction its intention (or not) to hold a ‘county agreement’ at least 155 days before the election.
Please keep our elections local and communicate to our county clerk your intention to hold our own early voting days in our ‘[your local city or township]’ before September 30th.
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