November’s general election gave election administrators in Michigan an opportunity to do a test run of early voting before the process becomes available statewide in the 2024 presidential election cycle.
Thirteen cities, townships and counties with local elections this year participated in the pilot program spearheaded by the Department of State, Michigan Bureau of Elections, and county clerks. The goal of the program was to experiment with new technology and procedures before a constitutional amendment allowing for nine days of early voting goes into effect in 2024. Michigan voters approved the change in the 2022 midterm election.
Early voting this year began Oct. 28 and finished before Election Day on Nov. 6. During that period, more than 4,600 voters submitted their ballots at one of the participating sites, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“I am grateful to the clerks who worked with us to pilot early voting this year,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in a press release. “From Lansing to East Grand Rapids to Westland to Oakland County, and several other communities in between, Michigan election officials met the moment and succeeded in laying the groundwork for successful early voting on a statewide level in 2024 and beyond.”
Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown said she and other election workers identified areas that need improvement to share with other local governments before early voting next year. Election officials identified a need for electronic and paper early-voting poll books, paper forms to use at early-voting sites, best practices for voting equipment, and instructional materials for election workers and voters, the press release said.
Roscommon Township Clerk Carie Milburn said they were able to use the pilot program to familiarize both voters and poll workers with the new option.
“Through this statewide coordination, the process is being improved and will result in a more proficient system when it is implemented by all jurisdictions for the Presidential Primary,” Milburn said. “Roscommon Township is thankful that the state and Bureau of Elections are taking feedback from the participating pilot jurisdictions and are allowing Roscommon Township to offer a smaller jurisdiction’s perspective.”
The Legislature appropriated $30 million in this fiscal year’s budget to help offset the costs associated with implementing early voting for the 2024 primary and presidential elections.
Michigan’s primary election is scheduled for Feb. 27. The Michigan Republican Party may end up assigning most of its presidential primary delegates in a closed caucus meeting on March 2, but the Republican National Committee has yet to approve the plan. The U.S. presidential election will be held on Nov. 5.