(The Center Square) – Legislative attempts to reform Michigan election law are becoming increasingly contentious.
On Wednesday, the Michigan Senate Elections Committee heard nearly two hours of testimony on a package of bills in both the state House and Senate aimed at cleaning up the state’s voting rolls and ensuring clerks are kept current on election rules.
Among the Senate bills commented upon were SB 277, which would require county clerks to flag voter registration records of deceased voters in the qualified voter file, as well as mandate county clerks and the Secretary of State to post data regarding voter registration records of deceased voters.
SB 281 would require the Secretary of State obtain information from recognized multistate programs to update voter registration records and submit timely reports.
SB 306 would require the Secretary of State prepare a report regarding clerks who are not current with training, as well as post the report on the department’s website.
Speaking on behalf of the slate of House bills, Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton Township, said in a statement: “I started meeting with the Secretary of State early in the term, trying to find common ground, and I meet often with clerks on the ground who oversee elections in communities across our state.”
Bollin, who is also chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, continued: “This is important to me, because the fixes the House is prioritizing do not have anything to do with partisanship. My emphasis continues to be on efforts that improve our elections and fix deficiencies in our system, many of which I personally experienced while serving as a township clerk.”
However, opposition against the bills is divided mainly along partisan lines.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has asserted the proposed package of bills is “more restrictive than Georgia’s.”
However, some of the proposed bills aim to prevent similar issues presented by a directive Benson issued last October, which directed city clerks to presume signatures were valid when matching absentee ballot signatures with the voter signature on file.
Although Benson’s directive was followed while votes in the November 2020 election were tabulated, it was struck down last month by Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray.
“The presumption is found nowhere in state law,” Murray wrote in his opinion. “The mandatory presumption goes beyond the realm of mere advice and direction, and instead is a substantive directive that adds to the pertinent signature-matching standards.”
“In kicking off the first of these hearings today, state Senate Republicans are going all in on sowing deadlock, disruption, and chaos in the election certification process,” Rodericka Applewhaite, Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson said in a statement.
“Reminder: We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Applewhaite continued. “It’s a complete breakdown in priority-setting for Republicans in Lansing to be attacking voters with unnecessary barriers to democracy while Michiganders are in need of solutions that will combat COVID-19 and help our economy recover faster.”