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Michigan bill aims to ensure voter registration is canceled after death

The Wisconsin Elections Commission reports nearly 1.9 million absentee ballots have already...
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reports nearly 1.9 million absentee ballots have already been returned ahead of Election Day.(WBAY)
Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 5:38 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A Michigan lawmaker has introduced bills that would make sure the state’s qualified voter file remains up to date when registered voters die.

Republican Bronna Kahle of Adrian introduced a bill that would require county clerks to send a list of people who died over age 18 to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which could use the information to check voter registration records and cancel their voting rights.

Kahle said the legislation would improve the integrity of Michigan’s elections by keeping the qualified voter file up to date.

“I will always stand for fair, free and safe elections, because voting is a foundational and integral piece of our democracy,” she said. “Nothing is more sacred than our elections process. The people of our state must be able to trust in the security, honesty and integrity of our system.”

Under current laws, county clerks forward death information and people’s last known address to municipal city or township clerks, who are supposed to check their files and cancel the voter registration for anyone who dies.

Kahle noted that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson used the qualified voter file from her office to mail 4.4 absentee ballot applications for the Nov. 3 general election at a cost of $1.4 million. Kahle said many residents reported getting postcards for deceased voters and previous residents of their homes.

“Situations like this undermine the public’s confidence in our elections procedures and open the door to potential fraud,” she said. “We can and must do better. This plan holds the state’s qualified voter file to the highest standard possible by making sure that when someone passes away, they are removed from the voter file quickly, so there’s no possibility for fraud.”

Separate bills pending in the Michigan House aim to fix problems found in a 2019 audit of the Michigan Bureau of Elections. Kahle noted that the report found numerous people in the qualified voter file who would be 122 year old or more.

Elections officials indicated most of those files were assigned an implausible birth date as a reminder to update them.

House Bills 6177-81 would require the Secretary of State to update its records and remove erroneous placeholder birth dates from all files. Other measures would allow the public to hold local elections officials accountable if they don’t meet continuing education requirements.

All of the bills would have to pass the Michigan House and Senate by Dec. 31 for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign them into law.

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