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Some cities could see big time benefits thanks to ballot pre-processing

Karel Vega / WKAR-MSU

A new law in Michigan allowing certain municipalities to begin processing absentee ballots early could give some clerks a helping hand. That’s as the state reports over 1.8 million Michigan voters have requested absentee ballots for the midterms.

The law gives clerks’ offices in municipalities with more than 10,000 residents permission to start processing absentee ballots the Sunday and Monday before the general election. They can open all absentee envelopes and verify ballot numbers to eliminate tasks for Election Day.

The legislature passed a similar law before the 2020 election allowing for one day of limited pre-processing.

East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster said the law’s impact on time will vary by jurisdiction. She said the pre-processing time for cities like East Lansing, which has high-speed scanners and electric envelope openers, might not make a huge difference in time.

But Schuster said the extra time is a big deal for towns that don’t have special equipment to keep pre-processing quick.

“That's where we're going to see their information coming through sooner than it probably would have without pre-processing,” Shuster said.

With limited time to prepare, not all clerks are taking advantage of this law. But East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster says the city plans to process its ballots early so it can give the state insight on its effectiveness for future elections.

“It's definitely an opportunity for us to experience this hands-on and be able to offer feedback on how this helped us timewise,” Shuster said.

With less than two weeks until the election, voters should submit their absentee ballots as soon as possible at their local clerk’s office or drop box.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.