By Patrick Colbeck

Early Voting is the evil twin of mail-in voting. Its proponents promote convenience but never mention the price of that “convenience”. The “price” of that convenience is significant…and it is not all about financial burdens.,Voting_Policies_in_Constitution_Amendment(2022)

According to, as of October 2022, 46 states provided some form of voting prior to election day.

What Is It?

What Is The Difference Between Early Voting and Absentee Voting?

Early voting and absentee voting are two distinct methods that allow voters to cast their ballots before the official election day, but they differ in their processes and requirements.

Early Voting:

  1. Definition: Early voting allows voters to cast their ballots in person at designated polling stations before the scheduled election day. This period can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the jurisdiction.
  2. Convenience: It is primarily designed for convenience, allowing voters to choose a time to vote that fits their schedule, potentially avoiding long lines or scheduling conflicts on election day.
  3. Location: Early voting typically takes place at specific polling locations, which may be fewer in number than regular polling places available on election day.
  4. No Excuse Required: Voters do not need to provide a reason or excuse for why they are voting early.

Absentee Voting:

  1. Definition: Absentee voting allows voters to request, receive, and submit a ballot by mail. In some jurisdictions, it may also be returned in person to a designated location.
  2. Reason for Voting Absentee: Traditionally, absentee voting required voters to have a specific reason or excuse for not being able to vote in person on election day, such as being out of the country or having a medical condition. However, many states have moved towards “no-excuse” absentee voting, where any voter can request an absentee ballot without providing a reason.
  3. Process: The process involves requesting a ballot, receiving it via mail, filling it out, and then returning it either by mail or by dropping it off at a designated location.
  4. Timing: Absentee ballots can typically be requested and submitted well in advance of the election day.

Key Differences:

  • Method of Voting: Early voting is done in person, while absentee voting is primarily done by mail.
  • Reason for Voting: Traditional absentee voting often requires an excuse (though this is changing), while early voting does not.
  • Location: Early voting requires going to a polling place, whereas absentee voting can be done from anywhere, as long as the voter can mail the ballot back or drop it off at a designated location.

The exact provisions of “early voting” can vary significantly by state. In this article, I would like to focus in upon how early voting has been implemented in Michigan.

How Was It Implemented?

Constitutional Amendment

In Michigan, early voting was implemented by a vote of citizens on a ballot proposal initiated by the organization Voters Not Politicians.

We are told by the MI Secretary of State that MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2 passed with 59.99% of voters voting “Yes” and 40.01% voting “No”.


The passage of this constitutional amendment requiring nine days of early voting is only the first step to changing the execution of elections. The Michigan legislature then passed a series of bills to implement this new policy. These bills made the counties the effective centers of gravity for the execution of early voting policy.

County Agreements

Prior to the passage of MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2, Michigan had prided itself on local control of elections. Municipal clerks had the primary responsibility for administering elections. Now, the County has supplanted municipal clerks effectively centralizing the management of Michigan elections. Instead of 1,773 municipalities managing elections, only 83 counties now manage Michigan elections.

For the purpose of illustration, I am going to perform a “deep dive” into how one county – Ottawa County, MI – has implemented their early voting scheme. You can see the entire proposal as presented to the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners on September 5, 2023 for approval at the link below.

9/5/23 Ottawa County Finance and Administration Committee meeting

Let’s break down this agreement section by section.

The first important facet of this agreement to point out is that it is a template for agreements to be signed between the County and its constituent municipalities (cities, townships). This is the first clue that the municipalities are being asked to delegate many of their election responsibilities to the county.

Please note that the early voting sites will be administered by the County Clerk. In other words, nine out of ten election days are now monitored by county not municipal clerks.

In addition to the municipal polling locations that will be staffed on election day, four additional “early voting sites” are created to hand early voting for eligible residents throughout the county.

Each early voting site must be configured to support 110 variations of the ballot. That means that each tabulator must be configured to recognize 110 different ballot styles.

A new staff position called the Election Logistics Specialist will be created to supervise the activities at the early voting sites.

The locations of these voting sites will be determined by the county with no inputs from local municipalities.

The county will provide municipalities with “estimated” costs that can be adjusted by the county at any time subject to their sole discretion.

The financial impact of early voting is $769,094. This works out to roughly $3.29/registered voter.

The county is committing to conduct public logic and accuracy testing for “every electronic voting device within Ottawa County”. Since every voting device must be configured to support at least 110 ballot style variations, it will be very interesting to see the number of test ballots used during the public logic and accuracy testing.

In other words, the electronic poll book will be “connected to the internet” throughout the duration of early voting because internet connections are required for electronic poll books to connect to the state Qualified Voter File (QVF).

Once again, it is the county that assumes control over the conduct of the elections not the local municipal clerks. Jurisdictional clerks will be hired to act as early voting site supervisors supplemented by a part-time administrative support staffer.

An early voting receiving board has now been added to any existing absentee vote counting board and of course the polling location canvassing teams. Good luck with maintaining a cohesive audit trail across all of these canvassing boards.

Upon examination of the additional bureaucracy needed to implement early voting, it begs the question, “who wants this again?”

Who Wants It?

As the sections of the agreement reviewed above indicate, the devil is indeed in the details of this proposal. I believe it now would be helpful to understand the organizations behind this devilish scheme to subvert the integrity of our elections.

The lead organization behind the push for early voting in Michigan is Voters Not Politicians.

According to Influence Watch, the principle sources of funding for Voters Not Politicians are left-leaning groups such as Service Employees International Union, Action Now Initiative, and the 1630 Fund. The majority of funds for the Michigan-based organization notably came from outside of Michigan.

The 1630 Fund is part of the Arabella Advisors so-called “dark money” network. The term “dark money” alludes to the difficulty in discerning the true source of the funds.

The connection between the 1630 Fund and DC-based Arabella Advisors demonstrates that “Voters Not Politicians” appears to be a deliberate misnomer designed to deceive voters.

Politicians not voters appear to be driving the policy agenda for the organization Voters Not Politicians.

Bait and Switch

The election subterfuge doesn’t end with the name chosen for the organization behind the push for early voting. The way that the early voting ballot proposal was sold to citizens was deceptive as well. Here is the ballot language for MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2 that was used to sell the voters of Michigan on the need for early voting and other amendments to the Michigan Constitution.


  • Lack of mention as to any increased financial burden incurred for such amendments
  • Use of terms which engender broad support such as “military” and “voter ID” giving impression that related election integrity provisions are strengthened when provisions of amendments actually weakened election integrity in those areas
  • Ensures that only the Secretary of State (who was on the ballot) may conduct post-election audits

MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2 is not an isolated example of “bait and switch” tactics regarding election integrity proposals. Many proposals to subvert election integrity be they ballot proposals on citizens vote on or bills on which legislators vote promise mechanisms that provide checks and balances. Yet, when citizens attempt to assert those mechanisms, they are blocked from doing so. To make matters worse, prominent election officials dupe elected officials and general public alike with statements about how the election is supposed to be conducted, but rarely if ever provide any evidence of how the election was actually conducted.

There are numerous examples of such misdirection. Let’s start with the provisions of Article II Section 4 of the Michigan Constitution. MI Ballot Proposal 2018-3 included many election integrity subversion provisions. In order to make the proposal more palatable to discerning voters, it also included a safety provision that would ensure that every citizen had the right to an audit of statewide election results to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election.

However, when lawsuits were filed to exercise that right, the ability of a citizen to receive an audit of statewide election results was rejected by the courts. MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2 was then initiated to ensure that the MI Secretary of State was the only governing body with any authority to conduct an audit.

In Michigan, this was the constitutional equivalent to putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house. MI Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been found by at least five separate courts to have violated the law.

Now, let’s turn to the topic of electronic voting systems. Unlike paper ballots tallied by hand, there is zero opportunity for poll challengers and poll watchers to observe the tallying of the votes in electronic voting systems. In order to assuage concerns with this fact, there are statutory requirements for public accuracy tests to be conducted prior to every election (MCL 168.794a). These tests are supposed to serve as safeguards against machines switching votes. In practice, however, large municipalities like Detroit only test a subset of their voting systems and this subset rarely features any equipment actually deployed in support of election operations.

While we are on the topic of opaque electronic voting machines, there are statutory requirements that these machines must provide an audit trail (MCL 168.795) as a safeguard. Yet, when anyone attempts to examine that digital audit trail, they are denied on the basis of illusory provisions in the state contracts with the electronic voting system vendors.

County canvassing boards have been established as safeguards to ensure the integrity of the vote tallies produced by the municipalities within their jurisdiction. However, whenever canvassers express concerns with the execution of election processes yielding these vote tallies, they are pressured to issue a rubber stamp approval of the election results.

In this light, it is important to go beyond the carefully prepared talking points fed to election officials and have a substantive evaluation of how our elections are ACTUALLY executed.

Key Questions

Let’s get back to an examination of the Ottawa County Early Voting Agreement. We need to go beyond the fluffy prose around what is “supposed to” happen versus the substance what “actually” happens. The first step towards this end is to get rid of the wiggle room in expectations regarding the conduct of elections and nail down specific expectations.

In this light, what are some key questions that should be asked regarding the Ottawa County Early Voting Agreement? I propose the following questions for starters.

  • [1A] Early Voting Coordinator is to be “certified”. What are the certification standards? Who defined the certification standards?
  • [1A] Early Voting Coordinator compensation is listed as having a max salary of $75K per year. How many days do they work per year?  Is the effective salary rate much larger than $75K? (e.g. $75K for 3 months works out to an effective annual salary of $300K)? Salary cap likely an attempt to deceive citizens.  Same could be said of the 4 assistants capped at $14K per year.
  • [1I] Who will have access to logs for print on demand devices?  Who will log how the printed ballots have been employed or where they are stored?  What inventory control reports will be made available to the public?
  • [1J] Tabulators at early voting centers must be configured to tabulate ballots from any of the X number of precincts in Ottawa County. Will the public accuracy test demonstrate testing of all ballot permutations for all precincts?
  • [1J] What voting equipment will be used to tabulate and report votes for each precinct across all tabulators distributed at early voting centers and election day polling locations?  Who will conduct the public accuracy test for this equipment? What reports will be available to canvassers and the general public to discern whether or not the precinct results should be certified?
  • [1J] Will poll challengers be allowed to observe and record all tabulation activities at early voting centers?
  • [1K] Will each electronic poll book feature countywide voter rolls?  Since there will be 4 unique poll books (one for each voting center presumably), what prevents one person from vote 4 times in a single day? If poll book data is synchronized real-time to prevent this, how will these internet connections be secured? Who will be monitoring their security?
  • [1M] Who are the members of the County Receiving Board? What records will they use to determine the accuracy of the results? What is the chain of custody for these records especially in light of the distributed source of these records across multiple voting centers and polling locations?

Once we have substantive answers to these questions, we will have a solid foundation against which we can evaluate whether or not the fluffy prose is supported by professional execution worthy of our trust.

What Are The Issues?

In light of the sources of funding driving early voting, I would submit that the bar for trust regarding early voting needs to be very high. Even with substantive answers to the previous questions, I would submit that the following issues with early voting in Michigan overall and Ottawa County need to be addressed:

MI Ballot Proposal 2022-2 is Unconstitutional

Per Article I Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the state legislators are vested with the sole authority to define the “times, places and manner” regarding elections involving federal offices. In recognition of this assertion, 11 MI legislators have filed a lawsuit to overturn the 2022 election results pertaining to this ballot proposal. This may seem counter to the principles of democracy…and it is. But we are not a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. We elect representatives of the public ostensibly with specialized knowledge on policy matters enabling them to make informed decisions. Our founders referred to democracy as a “mobocracy” noting that voter sentiments were easily swayed by keyword-driven marketing campaigns. Our founders sought more informed consideration of policies. In this case, early voting was adopted by voters who had no idea of the price associated with the proposed constitutional amendments. As a result, the election fraud mechanisms that were used to steal the 2020 election were enshrined within the Michigan Constitution.

Loss of Local Control

The authority of municipal clerks to conduct elections is effectively neutered. 9 out of 10 voting days administered by county NOT local officials. Coupled with previous election record destruction orders by MI Bureau of Elections, there appears to be concerted effort to centralize the management of our elections and eliminate local audit trails.  Meanwhile, local clerks not only lose authority but they are stuck with the bill for the centralization of this authority.

False Advertising

Early voting was promoted as the will of the people. If the ramifications of Proposal 2 were so popular, why is there a need for a communication strategy by the MI Secretary of State to “promote, motivate, encourage, and build confidence with local voters regarding participation in early voting”.  Supposedly, they already voted for it so the majority of voters should already be enthusiastic to participate, right?


The cost to implement early voting in Ottawa County is $769,094. That works out to $3.29/registered voters. Remember, Ottawa County is only 1 of 83 counties in Michigan. There are 8.1 million registered voters in Michigan. That works out to an estimated cost of $26,670,354 to taxpayers across the state enabled by a ballot proposal that was promoted without any mention of such costs.

Internet Connectivity

They are not even attempting to hide the fact that our election systems are connected to the internet anymore. Synchronized electronic poll books across multiple centers that connect to the states QVF requires internet connectivity.

Internet connectivity introduces significant security risks. These security risks include the ability to manipulate any system to which these poll books are connected which include the state Qualified Voter File and subsequently our electronic voting systems. Every single electronic voting system in the State of Michigan is required by contract to integrate with the state QVF.

Public Accuracy Testing

Public accuracy tests for tabulators in use at precinct tabulators must reflect ballot permutations for ALL precincts within the county. It is highlight doubtful that such a broad test will be performed on machines slated for deployment in support of election operations (i.e. in Detroit, tested machines are show ponies not deployed on election day)

Furthermore, tabulation of precinct-specific results will be performed by machines that have not been subject to public accuracy tests such as RTM laptops or Election Management System (EMS) servers.


If your state has been saddled with the administrative chaos referred to as “early voting”, I would like to make the following recommendations to restore some measure of order in the conduct of our elections.

Require a Book Audit

  1. Ensure that the Early Voting Coordinator is knowledgeable of all statutory requirements as cited in their job description by requesting the completion of a book audit of all directives issued by the MI Secretary of State before promulgating them within the county.
  2. Request copies of the “quarterly activity reports” issued by Early Voting Coordinator to the local clerks. Ensure there is at least one local clerk requesting this report.

Require a Field Audit

  1. After election, require each clerk (county and local) to post the following information for their jurisdiction:
    • Post a list of everyone  who voted in each election to the county website.  The list should include the following information in a downloadable csv format as a minimum in support of canvassing:
      • Full name of who voted
      • Residence Address
      • Year of birth (NOT full birthday)
      • Municipality
      • Voting Precinct
      • Method of voting: In-Person or Absentee
  2. Conduct a post-election canvass to verify the accuracy of data posted under Item 1
  3. After an election, require a list of the number of ballots cast by precinct to be posted to the clerk website for each election. The list should include the following information as a minimum:
    • Municipality
    • Precinct #
    • # In-Person Ballots Cast
    • # Absentee Ballots Cast
    • Total ballots cast

These field audit datasets will enable the following assessments of election integrity:

  • Post-Election Canvass:  Are there voter history anomalies that indicate fraudulent ballots were cast?
  • Does the total number of ballots cast equal the total number of voters? Countywide? Municipality-wide? Precinct?
  • Does the number of in-person ballots cast equal the number of in-person voters? Countywide? Municipality-wide? Precinct?
  • Does the number of absentee ballots cast equal the number of absentee voters? Countywide? Municipality-wide? Precinct?

The answers to these questions might indicate sloppy election management practices or outright election fraud that provide grounds for not certifying election results.

Limit Elections to a Single Day

Eliminate early voting and limit voting options to a single day of in-person voting.


Early voting is clearly an attempt to centralize the management of elections. 9 out of 10 voting days will be managed by county not local personnel.

Early voting also adds unnecessary complexity to the conduct of elections. In addition to making it exceedingly difficult to conduct professional audits of election returns, this complexity comes with additional cost burdens that were never presented to voters as a consideration for the added “convenience” of early voting.

Against this backdrop, it is difficult not to conclude that early voting is simply an enabler for election fraud.

We need to eliminate early voting and return to a single election day.

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