Clerks plead for help from state leaders

Local elections officials have sent a letter to state officials asking for more time to pre-process absentee ballots, expanded early voting, and more.

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2022 will bring us the biggest elections since 2020. Actual real-life experts agree, that year’s election was likely the most efficient, secure and well-run election in the nation’s history. 

But that, of course, didn’t stop “Big Lie” conspiracies from taking hold among former President Trump’s followers. Although the mistrust and anger toward election workers is manufactured, it still exists. And it’s making it increasingly difficult to do the job of running elections.


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The leaders of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks and the Michigan Association of County Clerks recently wrote an open letter to state leaders. It lays out their concerns and needs heading into this election cycle.

They say that in 2020, “An already overextended and under-funded system was put to the test and strained to the measure of its capacity. Nearly everyone can agree that changes are necessary. Some of the needed changes are a result of the world we live in post 2020, and other changes have been neglected for far too long.”

“WE. NEED. HELP.”

And that’s one of the reasons local election officials here in Michigan are yelling from the rooftops – “WE. NEED. HELP.” That’s a direct quote from Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck, a Republican.

Roebuck was recently on WDET’s Detroit Today, and told host Stephen Henderson that they’re asking for more resources and changes to laws that they believe will help build trust.

“It’s very important that we maintain a high level of integrity in our elections and the security, but we need resources to do that,” he said. “And we need an infrastructure to respond to those changes that our voters made that make it more convenient for voters, we also need the laws in place and the infrastructure in place to allow us to efficiently serve our voters. Time is running out.”


Related: Local elections officials need help in 2022


Roebuck was referring to Proposal 3 of 2018. It allowed same-day voter registration, allowed people to vote absentee for any reason, required election audits and more. While Roebuck says those changes were good for voters, clerks still need help to make sure they’re able to handle the additional demands these changes placed on their offices.

He was joined on Detroit Today by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, a Democrat. She says this is not a partisan request.

“There are over 1,500 of us,” said Byrum. “We are Republicans, we are Democrats, and some are nonpartisan.”

What elections officials want to see

Local clerks say they want more time to pre-process absentee ballots, more options for early voting, more transparency for existing election audits and more training for election challengers. They also want to allow clerks to better clean Michigan’s voter rolls by removing people who have died or moved out of the state or been flagged for violating voting laws.

So now the question is, will lawmakers in Lansing take action based on what this bipartisan group of clerks is almost literally begging them for? Or will the conversation at the state Capitol continue to be dominated by conspiracy theories and ways to score political points instead?


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Authors

  • Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

  • Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.