WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WOOD) — One week ago, Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, which will bring big changes to the state’s elections.
Perhaps the most notable change is nine days of early in-person voting. Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck called it a “significant change” that brings positives.
“Holding an election over the course of one 14-hour period is really challenging for a lot of people,” Roebuck said. “People are busy, they live busy lives, and it’s a great opportunity to expand that option for voters.”
Michigan already has absentee voting. But now, with Proposal 2 passing, polling places will be open in-person nine days before the election for eight hours at a time.
Although Roebuck said early voting brings advantages, he believes “significant funding” from state, county and local governments will be required for polling places to run well.
“I think it’s going to take all three working together to make sure we’ve adequately funded what the voters told us they want,” Roebuck said.
“The funding for new equipment is going to be significant,” Roebuck added. “The funding for some of the locations is obviously going to be significant. It will take some heavy lifting in terms of funding.”
Under the new system, Roebuck said cities can work with other municipal governments or counties to host early voting sites. The new locations will need to be big enough and close enough to where voters live to ensure equal access, Roebuck said.
Additionally, Roebuck emphasized it will take more money to staff polling locations for nine days straight.
“Our polling locations currently are open for 14 hours on one day,” Roebuck said. “Now we’re looking at staffing for not as many locations, but for a significant number of locations over the course of nine days, eight hours a day.”
Without more money, Roebuck fears it could take longer for Michigan to process election results.
“Without adequate funding, the changes that have been implemented in Proposal 2 could have a significant negative impact on our election process if there is not adequate funding,” Roebuck said. “And that’s what’s so important.”
Proposal 2 also enshrines the right for registered voters to vote without an ID as long as they sign an affidavit.
“There’s a way we can process that voter,” Roebuck said. “They can still cast a ballot, but we have that documentation that they voted without a photo ID in case there’s anything we ever need to follow up on with that voter.”
Proposal 2 adds several other policies to the state constitution, including allowing people to donate money to local governments to help run elections. It also requires that military and overseas ballots postmarked by election day are counted.
Additionally, it requires the state to fund at least one absentee ballot drop box in every municipality as well as prepaid stamps and a tracking system for absentee ballots.
Roebuck said despite the new challenges early voting could bring, it can also help the “workflow process” for election officials.
“Through these nine days of early voting, voters can come in and cast a ballot,” he said. “And essentially, as the polls close on election night, we will be ready to total those cast ballots that have happened across the jurisdiction over the course of the previous nine days. That’s a great way to ensure that we have results ready in a timely fashion. But again, we have to have the physical infrastructure in place in order to effectively manage that. If we don’t have equipment, that could be difficult.”
Still, no matter what happens, Roebuck said election workers will get the job done.
“Our job is to secure the integrity of our elections, and that is job number one,” Roebuck said. “And we will do that no matter what and no matter what it takes.”