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  • James Townsend

Announcements from the office of State Representative Julie Calley

State Rep. Julie Calley’s plan giving local communities a new option to streamline the processing of absentee ballots has been signed into law.

Calley, of Portland, said city and township clerks throughout Michigan are expecting a significant increase in the number of absentee ballots they receive following the addition of no-reason absentee voting, which was included in the reforms approved by voters through Proposal 3 of 2018, as well as coronavirus concerns. As a result, many clerks are concerned local election workers will not be able to process absent voter ballots in a timely manner.

“We’re working on several reforms to help our local clerks address the increase in absentee ballots while still maintaining the integrity of our elections,” said Calley, who chairs the House Elections and Ethics Committee. “This plan gives communities a new option to streamline the process.”

Absentee ballots can be processed in one of two ways – at each precinct or in an absent voter counting board. When they are processed in the precinct, election workers typically feed absentee ballots into the voting machines during lulls or after polls close. By contrast, AV counting boards focus solely on processing absentee ballots all day long.

While AV counting boards were previously allowed, communities were only allowed to complete the process on their own. The new law spearheaded by Calley allows local governments to team up with other nearby communities or the county to establish an AV counting board.

“This will give small communities – which may not have the workers or equipment needed to have their own AV counting board – the opportunity to pool their resources with a local jurisdiction, if they so choose,” Calley said.

Calley noted that workers on AV counting boards must be properly trained and are required to sign an oath not to reveal vote tallies until after polls close. Additionally, counting boards must have election inspectors representing both parties, just as polling places do.

House Bill 5141 is now Public Act 95 of 2020.

Calley on Tuesday announced details of the Michigan Legislature’s plan to ensure the safety of Michigan students as learning resumes in the fall.

The Return to Learn plan, unveiled this morning during a Capitol press conference, requires local school districts and health departments to work together to develop health and safety standards best for their individual communities.

“Instead of politicians making sweeping decisions about what learning will look like in every school across our state, this plan empowers local health experts and educators to make decisions that make sense for families in their area,” said

Calley, of Portland. “It also provides the resources schools need to make adjustments for remote learning and increased safety measure for in-person learning.”

Calley said schools would have the flexibility to begin instruction as quickly and safely as possible. Under the plan, school districts could start whenever is best for them without obtaining a waiver to bypass Michigan’s Labor Day start requirement.

The Return to Learn plan also:

  • Provides an $800 per pupil payment to K-12 schools to implement a robust distance learning plan and health and safety measures to return students safely to the classroom.

  • Includes a $500 per teacher payment for hazard and overtime pay and to help cover costs incurred due to transitioning to distance learning teaching plans.

  • Delivers $80 million to intermediate school districts to assist schools in coordinating and implementing distance learning plans and safety measures.

  • Redefines the word “attendance” to mean “engaged in instruction” rather than “physically present,” allowing schools to be innovative and give students the opportunity to learn outside the classroom.

  • Limits the use of snow days to encourage the use of remote instruction when in-person instruction is unsafe or unsuitable. Moving forward, schools would be granted just two forgiven days of instruction per year.

  • Utilizes benchmark assessments to provide detailed information to parents and teachers about where a student needs additional help, ensuring kids do not fall behind in the wake of the public health crisis.

  • Requires school districts to work with local health departments to establish safety requirements for extracurricular activities and sports in addition to regular school safety measures.

The plan will be referred to the House and Senate education committees for consideration later this week.

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