Michigan's Democrat-controlled legislature launched the new year with hearings setting the goals for the 2024 election. Yesterday, Delta Township Clerk Mary Clark, past president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks (MAMC), presented to the House Elections Committee. Last Wed., Feb. 1, the Michigan Senate Elections Committee heard statements from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (D).
I encourage you to read and watch our state's priorities as depicted below. Check out the links to both hearings. Read the enclosed notes from PIME's Legislative Committee Chair Bill Richardson and the summary of the SOS and AG's comments by Tom Mackinder, MFE Executive Committee member.
Also, please mark your calendars for this Thursday's amazing Zoom at Noon. Members only. Sorry, no press.
For those within driving distance, you are cordially invited to attend Saturday's in-person PIME meeting featuring Patrick Colbeck speaker. Flyer below.
For election integrity in Michigan,
Patrice Johnson, Chair
Delta Township Clerk Mary Clark, past president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks (MAMC) presents before the House Elections Committee Feb. 7, 2023. https://www.house.mi.gov/VideoArchivePlayer?video=HELEC-020723.mp4&jwsource=em or
Bill Richardson notes from House Elections Cmte Mtg – Feb. 7, 2023
· MAMC (MI Association of Municipal Clerks), Delta Township clerk and past president Mary Clark presenting.
· MAMC made up of cities and twps. In MI. Membership of ~900 this year. 1240 townships in MI, 276 cities, 83 counties, 156 villages. Villages do not execute elections in MI.
· Counties are their partners, they run the front end and back end. MI is one of a few states that has local control. Important to note that the vast majority of the 1240 townships are small with 3 precincts or less. Delta twp is the 54th largest jurisdiction in MI.
· MAMC works very closely with the BOE (Bureau of elections).
· Ms. Clark was making a point about balancing larger municipalities with the smaller ones, pointing out that there are many more smaller municipalities than larger ones.
· MAMC has a legislative cmte that reviews all legislation related to elections. They testify and take positions of support, opposition, or oppose as written (meaning it could be okay with some changes). Its with the latter that they hope to be able to work together for solutions.
· MAMC joined MAC (MI Assoc of Counties) and formed a joint group called ‘Council of Election Officials” (CEO). May see ‘support cards’ submitted (for legislation) from MAMC or the Council of Election Officials. There are 6 voting members for each of the two institutions (MAMC and CEO), 6 from counties and 6 from municipalities.
· Counties have duties that are way beyond those of municipal clerks.
· Prop 2 thoughts – creates a whole other world in elections. Prop 3 in 2018 significantly increased the volume of absentee ballots once anyone could apply for an AVB. With COVID in 2020, they had huge #’s of AVB voters. She saw a 70% participation rate with AVB in 2020 due to COVID. They were VERY glad that prop 3 had passed in 2018 since it allowed them to do elections as safely as possible in 2020.
· Prop 2 of 2022 “adds another dimension,” with the addition of 9 days of early voting. They are very focused on what it will take to really implement 9 days of early voting, from a municipal clerk perspective. There are a number of key things that they are focused on:
o Funding – puts a huge demand on local jurisdictions
§ Some elections are reimbursed (federal, state, school district, etc).
§ If it’s not an Aug/Nov election and the municipality decides to have a special election, they have to pay for it.
· Two things here from BR:
o Municipalities can charge people (like Nate) for the election
o Municipalities also have the option (per prop 2) to have early voting days or not in an election that is not State or Federal
o So, Ms. Clark is misguided to bring this up
§ They are concerned as elections ‘broaden’ in how they are executed, they will require more expense, and they are concerned about municipalities to be able to front funding until they are reimbursed.
· Gave an example for a presidential election, not being reimbursed until the end of the state’s fiscal year.
· This will be a challenge for small jurisdictions.
o Polling Locations will be a problem
§ Most use churches will not give them 9 days of early voting that span two Sundays
§ Schools will not let them use gymnasiums for 10 days of voting.
§ Will need to work together to find more options here.
o Hope to expand the # of voters allowed in a precinct by law (currently 2999) – would like to see something more like 5000.
§ They think they can manage this with the high % now of AVB voters
o Would like to revisit the primary/general cycle, moving the primary up to May or June to give them more time to close out the primary election before having to roll right into the general election.
o Expecting lots of changes in elections. How do we make the best use of 9 early days.
§ Process ballots as they come in, not wait until election day.
o Some things about Challenging voters aren’t rational to them. Things that became law after prop 3 in 2018.
§ They have lobbied for a ‘move’ ballot. Mentioned military/overseas.
· Some mail it because they can’t do it any other way.
· They get a lot of military ballots that come in late [Johnson Note: To call these military ballots is a misnomer. Only 24% of Michigan Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA) ballots are military. 76% are overseas voters who claim to be citizens but no voter ID or Social Security Number or actual residence address in the U.S. are required. However, clerks can and should impose a requirement to see a copy of the registrant’s passport].
o Paid postage concerns – especially with smaller jurisdictions. They want a pre-paid bulk stamp that would be paid for by the state, not the local jurisdictions.
o Some other clarity they need – execution of Prop 2 is their primary focus this year. They want this for their members, for the legislators, and for everyone in the state. Will take some thoughtful work to pick the best path.
o Housekeeping things they would like to see action on. They have a draft of their priorities. Their board approves the recommendations of their legislative committee.
§ Ms. Clark plans to share those with the Elections Cmte chair as soon as the board approves the recommendations later this month.
§ What she mentioned today is an overview of that list of priorities.
· Ms. Clark mentioned a reservation of being ‘locked in by legislation’ to something they may find out later is not a ‘best practice,’ indicating that they may like some freedom in execution of elections. [This mirrors SOS Benson’s statement in the Senate Elections hearing, as she repeatedly suggested flexibility.]
The Cmte Chair (Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou) thanked Ms. Clark for her work and presentation and said to her “you are the ones who know best.”
Questions from cmte members:
1. Rep Erin Byrnes (via Zoom) asked if there were best practices they have noticed from other states that she (Ms. Clark ) would recommend.
a. Ms. Clark’s answer was that while they don’t have a lot of details yet, they would like smaller jurisdictions to have the ability to create ‘voting centers’ and gave an example of 3 precincts joining in one facility and thus only requiring one worker per day per precinct instead of each precinct having to pay 3 workers per day.
b. Ms. Clark also brought up the concept of Counties having early voting centers.
c. There are a lot of hours and cost that not accounted for in the constitutional amendment. This is of paramount concern.
2. Rep Hope (D-Dist 74 – concerned about security of voters and workers in polling locations and locations where ballots are handled. She wants to criminalize harassing clerks and their work, and make it a felony. Does MAMC or COE have other suggestions to make things safer.
a. Ms. Clark’s answer – having a clear boundary proactively is important. Someone who wants to be disruptive may not be stopped by that, but having consequences may help. She has seen a change in the atmosphere surrounding elections and voting. She has workers who want assurances when they see people with guns and some of her workers are resigning as a result of this. We have to do everything possible to ‘ensure their safety.’ [We should FOIA for examples of any reports of violence]
3. Rep Smith (via Zoom) – one time application to vote AV. Will there need to be two lists, or how will the clerks handle this.
a. Answer – they are having conversations with the bureau (of elections?) about this. They have concerns about execution since they have residents who only want one AV ballot mailed to them (snowbirds for example).
b. Some discussion amongst clerks to send a confirmatory postcard to AVB registered voters before mailing the actual ballot. This will help them with the previously described voters.
BR: this will also provide a mechanism for clerks to ask if they want to be removed
from the AVB list.
4. Rep Penelope Tsernoglou (D-Dist 75, Elections Cmte chair) – asked about cost estimates if we were assuming we would be doing voting centers and how that compares with the numbers she quoted earlier.
· Cmte chair said she was committed to work with MAMC to make things work.
· Neither Republican on the Cmte asked any questions of Ms. Clark. GOP members are:
o Greg Markkanen (R-Dist 110)
o Rachelle Smit (R-Dist 43)
Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) present before the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee, Feb. 1, 2023.
Chair Senator Jeremy Moss (D) opened the meeting with an agenda to discuss:
•Voting Rights (prop 3) in 2018
•Voting Rights (prop 2) in 2022
•Financial Disclosure (prop 1) in 2022