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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

Senate GOP Leader Now "Open" To Changes On Absentee Ballot Counting

State Sen. Mike Shirkey (R) Clarklake

It is still possible Michigan could change its rules on how absentee ballots are counted on election night.

Local clerks have been flooded with absentee ballot requests since it became easier to vote absentee. Those votes aren’t counted until after polls have closed and all the other votes have been tallied. Local clerks say the surge in absentee voting could pose undue hardships on election workers and delay final results by many hours.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has been opposed to changing how ballots are counted due to concerns about ballot security. But his press secretary, Amber McCann, said he’s now open to changes. But she said there’s no guarantee that would get done before Michigan’s presidential primary next month. 

"He’s not committed to a timeline, and it’s possible these changes might not be in place prior to March 10th. But he is having active discussions about the value of these changes,” said McCann.

By law, absentee ballots cannot be counted until after the polls close at 8 o’clock. A bill sponsored by state Senator Ruth Johnson would allow election workers to prepare mailed-in ballots to be run through tabulating machines.  Johnson served as Michigan Secretary of State from 2011 to 2019.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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