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MacDonald’s drop box ballot handling bill approved by committee

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Michael D. MacDonald’s legislation to establish a chain of custody for absentee voter ballots picked up from drop boxes was approved on Wednesday by the Senate Elections Committee.

“This commonsense reform is designed to help us keep up with new voting options while also ensuring that ballots are secured, votes are protected, and the results accurately reflect the will of the people,” said MacDonald, R-Macomb Township. “As more voters choose to vote by an absentee ballot and opt to use the local drop box instead of mailing it in, we must update our laws to protect those votes.

“Senate Bill 273 would increase the security of absentee voter ballot drop boxes in our state, and my bill would ensure the secure handling of absentee ballots when they are removed from the local drop boxes.”

Senate Bill 278 would put into law a clear set of procedures for removing absentee voter ballots from drop boxes and require all ballots to be transported in an approved ballot container. The bill would specifically require that a chain of custody log include, at the very least, the date ballots were collected from the drop box, the individual who collected them, and the location at which they were collected.

SB 273, sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, would update and increase drop box requirements. A drop box would need to be clearly labeled as an absentee voter ballot drop box, be securely locked with the inability to remove ballots when locked, be secured to prevent removal of the box (if it is not continuously monitored), and display text saying that the area may be under surveillance and describing that ballot harvesting is a felony.

SB 273 also requires that any new drop box must be approved by the Michigan secretary of state and the local county board of canvassers, and it maintains the current requirement that drop boxes be monitored continuously via a video recording device in adequate lighting.

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.