June 14, 2013 PA 51 of 2013 - Local Boards of Canvassers Eliminated

On June 11, 2013 Governor Snyder signed House Bill 4171 into law.  HB 4171 (now Public Act 51 of 2013) is part of a three-bill package that is primarily designed to eliminate local canvassing boards.  The other two bills are HB 4169, which amends the General Law Village Act; and HB 4170, which amends the Community College Act.  These bills were supported by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks and the Michigan Association of County Clerks. 

The Acts have immediate effect - meaning that County Boards of Canvassers are now responsible for canvassing all elections, starting with the August 6, 2013 election.

Key points are summarized below.  All page and line numbers listed below refer to the House-concurred version of HB 4171.  This version of the bill clearly shows marked changes and is available electronically at legislature.mi.gov (A direct link is here:  HB 4171).

Local Canvassing Responsibilities Assigned to County Board of Canvassers

Several sections of Michigan Election Law were changed to eliminate references to local boards of canvassers and assign all canvassing duties to the County Board of Canvassers.  A detailed list of the changes and specific topics covered by each includes:

  •  MCL 168.24a(1); p. 2, lines 5-8:  Assigns the duties formerly performed by the local boards of canvassers to the County Board of Canvassers.
  • MCL 168.30g; p. 4, beginning line 21:  Authorizes a temporary appointment to the Board of County Canvassers necessitated by a member's illness or absence; clarifies that this temporary appointment power exists only for the Board of County Canvassers. (Also eliminates prior references to local boards of canvassers.)
  • MCL 168.307, 308, 323, 347, 355, 426c, 426f, 426l; see text beginning on p. 5, line 10 through p. 9, line 23:  Amends the chapters of the Michigan Election Law governing specific offices (members of school and community college boards, city offices, township offices, municipal judges) to replace references to local boards of canvassers with the County Board of Canvassers. 
  • Several other changes to replace local boards of canvassers references with the County Board of Canvassers:
    • (1) MCL 168.792 governing voting machines; p. 12, beginning line 25;
    • (2) MCL 168.806 and 809 governing the precinct canvass; p. 14, beginning line 10;
    • (3) MCL 168.822, 823, and 826 governing the county canvass; p. 16, beginning line 14;
    • (4) MCL 168.866, 867, and 868 governing recounts; p. 19, beginning line 21. 
  • Repealed sections of Michigan Election Law (enacting section 1; p. 23, line 14):
    • MCL 168.30a to 30e, governing the composition of the membership of local canvassing boards, terms of office, contracts with County Boards of Canvassers, etc.
    • MCL 168.360, requiring the Township Clerk to maintain the original canvassing records of the Township Board of Canvassers. 

Allows County Clerk Staff to Handle Canvass Corrections:

The following language was added to allow the Board of County Canvassers to utilize County Clerk staff in lieu of summoning election inspectors during the canvass:

"In the alternative to summoning the election inspectors before them, the board of county canvassers may designate staff members from the county clerk's office to count any ballots that the election inspectors failed to count, to make correct returns in case, in the judgment of the board of county canvassers after examining the returns, poll lists, or tally sheets, the returns already made are incorrect or incomplete, and the board of county canvassers shall canvass the votes from the corrected returns."  MCL 168.823(3); p. 18, lines 9 through 17.

Reinstates Previous Requirements Related to Village Election Costs

Last year, September village elections were eliminated through the passage of PA 523 of 2012.  Along with these changes, all references allowing townships to recoup proportionate election costs from villages were also eliminated from Michigan Election Law.  This language, re-inserted into election law via HB 4171, is modified to apply only to special elections, not the regular village election in even-year November elections: 

"If a village's special election is held in conjunction with another election conducted by a township, the village shall pay the township a proportionate share of the election expenses. If a village's special election is not held in conjunction with another election conducted by a township, the village shall pay the township 100% of the actual costs of conducting the village's special election."  MCL 168.642(6); p. 11, line 24 through p. 12, line 3.

The only change from the prior language is the elimination of prior references to "regular" village elections.

Other Costs Related to Canvassing

Other provisions related to the cost of canvassing remain unchanged. (MCL 168.24a(5)):

"The cost of canvass of school, metropolitan district, city, township, and village elections shall be borne by the school district, metropolitan district, city, township, or village holding the election, and upon presentation of a bill for the costs incurred by the board of county canvassers, the school district, metropolitan district, city, township, or village shall reimburse the county treasurer."

Moving Forward

County clerks with scheduled August elections are encouraged to begin making preparations now for handling all canvassing duties previously assigned to local canvassing boards.  Contact your County Canvassing Board members as soon as possible to alert them to this change and to ensure availability of a quorum following the August 6 election.  Also remember that County Canvassing Boards have the authority to employ assistants as necessary to adequately perform the duties of the Board (MCL 168.24e).

City and township clerks that previously utilized local canvassing boards are also encouraged to contact their local canvassing board members now to notify them of this change.

Questions?  Please contact the Bureau of Elections at 1-800-292-5973 or 517-373-2540.