What's new in Michigan 2024 election? Early voting, ballot tracking on list
- In-person early voting and several tweaks to absentee voting process coming in 2024 elections
- Other changes approved last year include updates to the election certification process, voter registration
- The measures were lauded by Democrats, often saw Republican opposition
Another election cycle, another host of changes to Michigan’s election process.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan’s Democratic-majority Legislature approved dozens of new election laws last year, implementing several reforms brought on by a 2022 voter-approved constitutional amendment and other overhauls they argue will make the process more accessible to voters and prevent chaos.
Although some of the new policies had bipartisan support, many Republicans opposed the bulk of the looming changes, arguing they could compromise election security and impose a cost and administrative burden for both the state and local election clerks.
- Who's on Michigan’s 2024 primary ballot? Trump, Biden have competition
- Big bucks for Michigan Dems: Slotkin, Tlaib, Whitmer, Benson report hauls
- Michigan election 2024: Key dates and deadlines
Several changes will be in place in time for the Feb. 27 presidential primary. Others, including an expansion of automatic voter registration by state agencies, have a delayed start date.
Here’s a look at election updates on the horizon coming in the 2024 cycle.
No need to wait until Election Day to cast a ballot in person this year. Michigan is the latest state to offer early in-person voting.
In-person early voting is slightly different from the no-reason absentee voting offered in recent election cycles. Although voters in recent cycles could request, fill out and file an absentee ballot in person, early voters this year will experience the voting booths, poll workers and “I Voted” stickers synonymous with Election Day.
How early voting plays out on the ground will depend on where you live. Clerks are required to provide at least nine days of early voting for eight hours a day ahead of statewide elections, starting the second Saturday before an election until the Sunday before the election.
Clerks can choose to go further, however, as the proposal and subsequent implementation laws allow for up to 29 days of early voting for statewide elections.
New presidential primary date
On Feb. 1, Whitmer signed legislation to move Michigan’s presidential primary date from March 12 to Feb. 27.
The change, backed by the Democratic National Committee and Democratic President Joe Biden, will make Michigan one of the first states to hold presidential primaries, which supporters said would increase the state’s clout.
Republicans opposed the move because Republican National Committee rules prohibit Michigan from holding primaries before March 1. In June, the Michigan Republican Party adopted a hybrid primary plan that would allot most of Michigan’s GOP delegates in party caucus meetings on March 2.
Absentee ballot tracking
No-reason absentee voting, approved by voters in 2018, has become a popular option for casting ballots in Michigan — more than 1.6 million voters requested absentee ballots in weeks prior to the 2022 general election.
Starting this year, voters can sign up for email or text alerts to track the status of their ballots once they’re submitted.
The more stringent tracking system also requires election officials to notify voters if their absentee application or ballot was rejected, along with the reason for doing so and how to resolve any issues.
Permanent absentee voting
Instead of submitting a new absentee ballot application for every election cycle, voters can opt to vote by mail in every election with a single application.
Registered voters who choose this option will get absentee ballots for all future elections unless they rescind their application, move without updating their registration address or don’t vote for six consecutive years.
Voters can apply online and opt into the permanent program through the Secretary of State or by contacting their local clerk’s office.
Don’t worry about finding a stamp, either — the changes also require election officials to provide pre-paid postage for absentee ballot-related mail.
The voting age is still 18, but 16 and 17-year-olds in Michigan will be able to pre-register to vote so they are automatically registered upon turning 18.
The option is available until a teen is less than six months from turning 18, at which point they’d have to wait to register until their birthday.
Election certification guardrails
New laws governing election certification align Michigan with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act, which was introduced in Congress with a handful of GOP co-sponsors and signed last year by Democratic President Joe Biden.
Among other things, the federal law makes clear that the vice president has a “ministerial” duty to count electoral votes that states send to Congress, contradicting Trump’s claim that former Vice President Mike Pence could and should have blocked certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The new Michigan law similarly states that partisan election canvassers at both the county and state levels have a "ministerial, clerical, and nondiscretionary duty" to certify results based on results compiled by local clerks.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump personally called Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, who subsequently attempted to rescind their certification votes. Trump also pressured Republican state canvassers, including one who nonetheless voted to certify Biden’s 154,188-vote Michigan victory.
The Michigan measure also speeds up the timeline for completing the post-election canvass and clarifies that only the governor can submit a list of presidential electors to congress. It also changes the nominating process for the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers.
Disclaimers for deep fakes
Among the reforms passed last year are protections against so-called “deep fakes” in political campaigning as artificial intelligence becomes more convincing.
New laws require disclaimers on any campaign ads or political content that were digitally altered using A.I. Failure to do so could lead to stiff criminal penalties. Supporters of the changes feared if left unchecked, such content could be used to spread false information in a way that influences election results.
More time for military votes to count
Absentee ballots cast by military or overseas voters will be given more time to count starting in 2024, even if they arrive after Election Day.
Typically, the deadline for voting is 8 p.m. on the day of an election. But under new election laws, if an out-of-country or military vote was postmarked on or before Election Day and received by a clerk within six days of the election, the ballot would be added to the final count.
Lawmakers last year approved legislation to expand what forms of voter identification are accepted at the polls. Options include a voter’s U.S. passport, tribal photo identification, military identification or a student ID in addition to a person’s driver’s license.
Voters without identification on their person are still allowed to sign an affidavit confirming their identity to cast their ballot, a controversial rule opposed by Republicans that was enshrined into the constitution under 2022’s Proposal 2.
Protections for poll workers
A new law will make it a crime to intimidate or otherwise threaten election workers in an attempt to stop them from performing their duties. Penalties would start at 93 days in jail and up to a $500 fine for a first offense.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, in a November press conference, said the changes will “protect the people who protect democracy” and combat an uptick of election worker intimidation that has escalated in recent cycles.
Other legislation signed last year created an option for prospective election workers to apply online.
More drop boxes, less precincts
Every Michigan municipality is now required to have at least one secure ballot drop box for absentee voters in future elections, with an additional drop box for every 15,000 registered voters.
Separate legislation increases the maximum size of an election precinct from 2,999 active registered voters to 5,000.
Paid transport to polls
Another newly-signed law repeals a ban on hired transportation to voting booths, an 1895 law believed to have been the only one of its kind left in the country.
Ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft had cited the law for not offering discounted rides to polls, as the companies do in other states, and the ban had long been the subject of legal disputes.
See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:
- “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
- “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
- “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.
If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!