Michigan State Senate approves bill allowing for faster processing of absentee votes

Larger Michigan municipalities could begin processing an expected surge of absentee ballots sooner in the November presidential election under a bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

The 34-2 vote followed a monthslong delay in the Republican-led chamber amid lobbying from clerks in both parties who warned of significant delays in counting the votes.

The GOP-controlled House will consider the measure next.

Absentee voting, already on the rise in recent election cycles, is an increasingly popular option during the coronavirus pandemic and following the passage of a 2018 ballot initiative that lets people cast one for any reason. 

The legislation would let clerks in bigger communities start processing ballots the day before Election Day. They still could not be counted until Election Day.

RELATED: Michigan voters request record-number of absentee ballots eight weeks out from election

Secretary Jocelyn Benson has long been an advocate for easing burdens on poll workers who count absentee ballots. Last week, the State Department released its first batch of ballot numbers being mailed in.

With eight weeks to go until the election, Michigan voters have already requested more absentee ballots than in any election previously. So far, 2.1 million ballots have been requested.

Both Wayne and Oakland counties have accounted for more than 300,000 ballot requests each. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report