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Michigan Republicans scale back proposed absentee voter ID mandate

A driver’s license or state ID card number and partial Social Security number would be required
A Michigan driver's license (Source via WJRT )
A Michigan driver's license (Source via WJRT )(NBC15)
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 11:18 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan Republicans are softening another of the 39 election reform bills they proposed in the Legislature.

Instead of requiring absentee voters to attach a photocopy of their driver’s license, the revised bill would require only a driver’s license or state ID card number and the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.

Democrats say the measure still is flawed and would make it harder to vote. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel pointed out identify theft concerns with sending photocopies of driver’s license and state ID cards unsecured in the mail.

“The bill is looking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and instead puts forth an obstacle that asks Michigan voters to make themselves vulnerable in order to vote,” said Nessel.

Republicans already scaled back another proposal in their package of bills that would have required ballot drop boxes to remain closed all day on Election Day. The newest proposal calls for closing drop boxes at 5 p.m., which is three hours before polls close on Election Day.

Critics of the legislation, including local election administrators, say drop boxes should remain open until 8 p.m. and are convenient and secure.

Republican’s announced the 39-bill package of proposed election reforms on March 24. The bills cover a wide variety of processes before, during and after an election, including:

  • 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 officially counting them).

Former Republican Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who is now a state senator from Holly, backs the proposed election changes and is sponsoring 16 of the bills. Current Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has condemned the package of bills as attempted voter suppression.

Benson and Nessel testified before the Michigan Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday to criticize the proposed election reforms.

“The reality is that our elections are safe, secure and accurate. And if anyone has lost faith in this, it’s only because of leaders who lied or allowed lies to spread and be repeated. But that doesn’t change the truth, nor current leaders’ responsibility to tell it,” said Benson. “It’s time we call these bills what they are. They are not an effort to combat voter fraud. They are an effort to reduce voter turnout.”

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