Senate panel approves bill requiring prompt announcement of special election

LANSING, Michigan— Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson Wednesday supported the panel’s approval of legislation requiring the prompt announcement of a special election to fill a legislative seat.

“The people’s ability to be represented in their state government is fundamental to our republic,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “When a legislative vacancy occurs, the people of this region deserve to know when it will be filled.

“This bill does not violate the Governor’s constitutional power to call a special election in the event of a legislative vacancy or the time period within which such election must be held. It only requires that he announce his decision in time – to begin the process of allowing the people to elect their new voice.

House Bill 4996, sponsored by the late Representative Andrea Schroeder of Waterford, would require the governor to announce the date to fill a vacancy in the Michigan Senate or House of Representatives within 30 days of the vacancy. It is not necessary for the election itself to take place within this 30-day window.

On Thursday, the Senate approved two more bills aimed at properly filling vacancies on local city councils and ensuring there are no errors on ballots.

HB 5287 would deal with cases where there is a vacancy in an elected office of the township. In these situations, the township council has 45 days to appoint someone for the remainder of the term. If the vacancy cannot be filled within 45 days, the county clerk must call a special election with each “township political party committee” fielding a candidate.

The bill would update the law to change references from “township party committees” – which no longer exist – to “county party committees”.

HB 5258 extend the time for a county election commission to file ballots with the county clerk to 58 days before an election, allow a county clerk to send ballots by first class mail to candidates on the ballot and email them if that address is provided and give candidates until 4 p.m. on the fifth business day after mailing to submit corrections to the county clerk. It would also allow a county clerk to email the ballot to the secretary of state.

“These bills would remove outdated language from our Elections Act to avoid confusion and also modernize processes that will improve our elections,” Johnson said.

HB 4996 has been sent to the entire Senate for review. HBs 5258 and 5287 return to the House to be drafted and sent to the Governor.

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