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Local elections clerks in Michigan have access to $8 million for election improvements

Posted at 9:57 AM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 09:58:28-04

LANSING, Mich. — Local election clerks are in charge of overseeing the voting process but their jobs have gotten a lot more difficult in recent years. In response, the state is making $8 million in grant funding available to make voting at local precincts easy, safe and secure.

“There's always more that we can do with additional funding. So I'm excited for that. One of the things that we've looked at is we have security cameras on most of our drop boxes, said Chris Swope, Lansing's city clerk.

Swope estimates that Lansing will get about $60,000 to make improvements to its voting process, a number based on the number of precincts in the city. Swope wants to prioritize security cameras at drop boxes.

"Adding those security cameras, I think, would be a big benefit for the city," he said. "And I think people love the convenience of being able to drop their ballot off right up until 8 on election night. And we collect those. So that's going to be our priority.”

Back in February, the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks sent an open letter to the legislature urging them to provide more money and support for local clerks.

“Consider the pressure on front line election administrators,” the association wrote. “Zero increase in state funding, no pre-processing of absentee ballots to ensure more timely and accurate tabulation and no substantive changes to address voter concerns. All of these shortcomings foster voter mistrust in the election process by which we select our leaders.”

Jake Rollow, a spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office, tells me running elections has gotten more difficult in recent years.

“The discourse around elections has changed so dramatically in the past couple of years," Rollow said. "So one of the things that we're always looking to do is find ways to support them so that they feel safe in their jobs.”

One way to do this, he says, is to let local election officials decide how they want to spend the money to best fit their district’s needs. That might mean active shooter training, upgrading election equipment or online improvements.

“We are relying on the wisdom of those nonpartisan officials to know what's best for their community and to protect the elections, as they have really for many, many years here in Michigan," he said.