Thursday, November 9, 2023

Early voting law could be costly for township

Early voting will be available to Sumpter Township residents during the 2024 Presidential Election, but the cost isn't popular with members of the board of trustees.

State voters approved Proposition 2 which included the extended in-person voting on the 2022 ballot and the measure becomes mandatory with the election next year. Municipalities must now officially adopt the new procedures by state law. Sumpter trustees were asked to vote to officially adopt the new procedures during a meeting last month.

During the meeting, trustees expressed their frustration at the state mandated early voting rules allowing for 9 days of in-person voting in addition to the usual Election Day opportunity.  Township Clerk Ester Hurst noted that proving staffing and equipment is now law in the state, but the measure would be “a headache” for her department. In addition, municipalities must now apply postage to all absentee ballots which are mailed to voters.

Hurst said with the increase in postal rates, this could be another expense in her department. Hurst said the new legislation would have a serious financial impact as there are three elections set for next year. She said the township would have to hire an increased staff of election workers at $12 an hour for 8 hours on each of the increased election days.

Trustee Tim Rush called the state mandate offensive and claimed the cost could be as much as $6,000 for staffing for the added election days in addition to the unknown cost of voting equipment. Rush said he felt that voters were not aware of the impact of the question on the 2022 ballot. While he voted yes on the agenda item, he said he was doing in “under protest.” 

Trustee Matt Oddy was also critical of the new voting regulations. He said that while the state legislators approved the measure, they did not approve or supply any funding toward the increased expenses required to comply with the new procedures. Oddy said each of the 735 townships in Michigan would be facing new expenses. 

Township Treasurer Bart Patterson agreed with Rush and Oddy. He said voters didn't understand the question. when voting for the proposal last year.