Republicans introduce 39 election reform bills in Michigan Senate

Opponents fear the change would make the board more partisan. (Source: WIS)
Opponents fear the change would make the board more partisan. (Source: WIS)(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 1:14 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Republicans in the Michigan Senate introduced 39 bills Wednesday aimed at making voting easier and cheating during elections harder.

The bills cover a wide variety of processes before, during and after an election. Highlights include:

  • Ballot security in drop boxes by restricting hours people can drop off ballots.
  • Ensuring Michigan’s Qualified Voter File remains updated.
  • Requiring voters to present their driver’s license, state ID card or a copy to obtain an absentee ballot.
  • Training requirements for poll challengers .
  • Transparency in the ballot auditing process.
  • Allowing 16-year-olds to preregister to vote when they receive their first driver’s license.
  • Improving challengers’ access to absentee ballot counting work.
  • Allowing video and audio recording of vote tabulation and ballot auditing.
  • Restricting unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications.
  • Improving the process of overseas military personnel to vote.
  • Allowing large communities to preprocess absentee ballots a day before Election Day (without official counting them).

“This legislation includes commonsense measures that will protect the integrity of our elections by safeguarding the right for people to vote and ensuring our elections are safe and secure,” said Republican State Sen. Ruth Johnson of Holly, who served as Michigan secretary of state from 2011 until 2018.

The election reform package compromises Senate Bills 273 to 311, which all were referred to the Senate Elections Committee. Johnson, who is chairwoman of the committee and sponsored 16 of the bills, is looking forward to bringing them through the legislative process.

“As we carefully review these bills in the coming months, my goal is to work together to make smart improvements where necessary and build on the processes that worked,” she said.

The Associated Press is reporting that Democrats believe the legislation introduced Wednesday would suppress voting, months after some Republican lawmakers falsely claimed the election was stolen from President Donald Trump.

Some measures appear destined to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, while others may find bipartisan support.

Current Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson laid out a more ambitious election reform proposal in February, which she dubbed Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy. She is calling for a formal early in-person voting process, the ability to count absentee ballots before the election and making Election Day an official state holiday.

Some of Benson’s proposals conflict with the Senate Republican plan, such as requiring absentee ballot applications be mailed to all registered voters before each election.

“Many of the bills in this package will make it harder for citizens to vote,” Benson said in a statement on Wednesday. “Rather than introducing bills based on disproven lies and copied from other states, lawmakers should be codifying what worked in 2020.”

She believes Michigan voters opted for more accessible elections with the approval of a statewide initiative in 2018, which allows for absentee voting without a reason and voter registration on Election Day.

“Everything we do should be based on protecting the right to vote, and too many of these bills would do the opposite,” Benson said.

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