By Elena Durnbaugh
Posted: November 20, 2023 12:46 PM
Republican clerks are not thrilled about the earlier 2024 presidential primary date, but they're not planning any legal challenges to the law, which will go into effect just two weeks before the date of the election on February 27, 2024.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has said the clerks can begin to run the February 27 election prior to the law moving the election to that date taking effect on February 13, undertaking activities like printing ballots and distributing absentee ballots.
Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini, a Republican, said he hadn't heard any talk of any sort of legal challenge to the presidential primary date, regardless of when the law technically goes into effect.
"It's just assumed that that's the date it's going to be," he said. "It goes into effect before the election."
That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. Far from it, in fact.
"It's going to be tight," Forlini said. "There's a lot of work on our behalf to reprogram from this last election, and that's just the way it's going to be."
Absentee and military ballots will be sent out before the presidential primary law is in place.
"They'll be printed by December," he said. "They will be out before the law goes into effect. That's the only way for people to get them in a timely fashion."
Forlini, who served in the House from 2011-16, said it would have been nice if the Legislature had given them more time to prepare, not only for the earlier primary, but also for the full implementation of Proposal 2022-2, which among other changes provides for nine days of early voting.
"Everyone forgets – the people that drafted 22-2 as well as our own Legislature – that there's humans behind this," he said. "There's human beings that have to work all day, work all night and come up with results that are timely, accurate and correct."
Clerks will need time to put processes in place, but that's time they won't have, Forlini said.
"Processes need to go into effect. When it's not perfect, people complain," he said. "I wish I'd been given more time to do a lot of things, but that's not the way Lansing works."
In Allegan County, Clerk Bob Genetski, a Republican, said he's waiting on the state to give them direction so that he can start training election inspectors.
"Early voting is an entirely new situation, and a lot of our election inspectors are going to need a lot of training," he said.
Clerks have questions about what to do with ballot bags, the new receiving boards, poll books and whether new election inspectors need to be sworn in every morning for early voting, Genetski said.
"There's a lot of different things to take into account," he said.
Genetski also said he didn't expect any legal challenges to the February date.
"There won't be any legal challenges from clerks in Allegan County," he said. "They're already busy trying to figure out how to go about the task that they've been hired to do by the taxpayers."
Genetski went on to say that clerks make bad activists because they're too busy preparing for the next election. He also said that lawmakers in Lansing – Genetski was a member of the House from 2009-14 – didn't care about whether the laws they were passing were practical for local clerks.
"Lansing doesn't really care," he said. "All Lansing cares about is big cities and the effort to turn out more people who otherwise wouldn't vote."
The solution to the challenge clerks face?
"Repeal Proposal 2," Genetski said. "I think it's going to be an incredible waste of taxpayer money. I know the Legislature can't do it on their own, but I'd like to see them look at what they've done to local clerks. I've already got four really good ones retiring because of all this nonsense."
Staffing polls two Sundays before the election is a waste of resources in places like Allegan County, Genetski said.
"They probably forget that a lot of people in Allegan County like to go to church on Sundays," he said. "In most cases, a lot of people aren't even going to come in to cast a ballot during the early voting time."
Genetski said that for clerks, the February presidential primary is comparable to taking a final exam without having any idea of what's on the test.
"I think it will be a great preview to the tremendous waste of money and resources that Proposal 2022-2 has brought to us," he said.