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Secretary of State calls on legislature not to make ballot changes within 75 days of an election


A bipartisan group of county clerks and the Michigan Secretary of State have called for the state legislature to promise there will be no ballot changes within 75 days of an election.

Currently, the deadline for making changes to the ballot is 60 days - but Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said that’s not enough time for changes to be made.

Under a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018, the ballot must be completed within 40 days of an election - that leaves only twenty days for local, county, and state election officials to make any necessary changes

Jake Rollow is with the Secretary of State’s office. He said the twenty-day window poses a problem for clerks given the rise in people using absentee ballots.

“Often in the bigger jurisdiction they have thousands of applications that they've already received. Even if they get their ballots with a few days to spare, stuffing and mailing their ballots with a few days to spare can be too onerous to get done.”

In the twenty-day window clerks would have to finalize ballots, receive state approval, send ballots to the printers, and mail them out.

The issue is especially relevant given an increase in absentee voting. State officials say there has been a 63% increase in absentee voting and it is essential that ballots are finalized in time for those who vote early.

Rollow said the request from clerks and the Secretary of State would be for the passage of a non-binding resolution.

“Their request of the legislature for flexibility and their willingness to do that in a non-binding way we hope falls on understanding ears.”

Republican State Representative Julie Calley is chair of the Elections and Ethics Committee. She said she only first learned about the Secretary of State’s concerns this week.

“I would have suggested she initiate a conversation with the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader instead of issuing a press release,” Calley said.

According to Calley a joint resolution, like the one the Benson is calling for, is not the proper way to receive a promise from the legislature.

“A joint resolution can be the first step in amending the State Constitution, but it is not used to make a statement about agreeing to abide within self-imposed restrictions.”