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New election laws take effect ahead of Michigan's presidential primary elections

Element 5

Local county clerks are preparing to implement new state law requirements ahead of Michigan's presidential primary elections this February.

Isabelle Pasciolla, politics and government reporter for the Midland Daily New, recently stopped by the WCMU studios to help break down these changes and what people can expect when voting in a few weeks.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length

Isabelle Pasciolla
Midland Daily News

Changes to ballot boxes & electronic ballot tracking

Isabelle Pasciolla: "There are a lot of new laws regarding ballot boxes, but the big one that I think voters would need to know is that municipalities are required to have a ballot box for every 15,000 registered voters. So, in the city of Midland, which has over 40,000 residents, that would mean they would need 3 ballot boxes and the laws also require that the boxes be available for 24 hours a day in the 40 days leading up to the election. And by 2026, all of the boxes will have to be video monitored."

IS: "There's different reasons why an [absentee] ballot might be rejected. An example would be they do signature matches. So, if they feel that the signature you put on your ballot doesn't match the one that they have on file, then they might call you and say. Hey, we don't know that this exactly matches, so you need to come check this and so basically the system would give you a notification saying that there was something wrong with your ballot. We need you to fix it. Here's the instructions of what you need to go do in order to fix that."

Security measures

IS: "By 2026, all ballot boxes will have to have a video camera monitoring them. So, county clerks can always have access and watch what is happening, and it can also give residents again, that reassurance that if they feel something happened. They could watch the video if they went into their county clerk and requested to."

IS: "They would be required to retain that video, which is very similar. They have similar laws in terms of holding on to ballots for a certain amount of time after the election. It's just sort of an additional thing that. Clerks will have to do."

IS: "I think there may be some struggles for certain townships that don't have the high-speed Internet of, transferring that file and holding on to it in a hard drive. I don't know that it would be impossible. It might just take more time than it would for a city with very high-speed Internet."

Precinct size

IS: "The new law states that precincts can be up to 4,999 registered voters, whereas it used to be 2,999, so that was a statewide change."

IS: "The city of Midland chose to consolidate their precincts because of that change. The city used to have 19 precincts and they have now dropped that down to 10."

IS: "I think that is a concern that some people have because the city did change polling locations, they do have less polling locations now. But with all these other opportunities to vote, you have nine extra days to go vote in person. You can do absentee. Anybody can vote absentee. So, with all of these options there shouldn't be too much crowding. And I know the city clerk in Midland was not concerned about crowding."

Tina Sawyer is the local host of Morning Edition on WCMU. She joined WCMU in November, 2022.