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Whitmer Vetoes Election Registration Verification Bill

The Michigan governor said the bill, which would have required some residents to send identifying information to their election clerk to ensure their voter registration wasn’t canceled, didn’t advance the state’s election goals.

(TNS) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed Republican-approved legislation Friday that would have required Michigan voters who haven’t voted since 2000 or are listed with a placeholder birth date to send identifying information to their local clerks to make sure their registration isn’t canceled.

Whitmer said in a statement that House Bills 4127 and 4128 would burden clerks and voters while increasing costs to Michigan residents. They would not “advance the goal of improving Michigan elections,” she said.

HB 4127 would require the Secretary of State to send a return card to a city or township clerk on which an elector with an unknown date of birth in the qualified voter file could verify his or her date of birth.

For each registered voter who had been assigned a placeholder birth date on the qualified voter file because his or her actual date of birth was unknown, the SOS, within 90 days after the bill’s effective date, would have to mail a prepaid, pre-addressed postcard to the appropriate local clerk on which the voter could verify the date of birth by signing their name.

If returning the return postcard by mail, a voter must attach a copy of his or her original birth certificate, current driver’s license or current state identification card as proof of his or her date of birth.

HB 4128 would require voters who haven’t voted since the 2000 general election to provide their current address to maintain their registration. The Secretary of State would have to send a notice containing a statement indicating they have not voted since 2000.

Voters would need to sign and return the postcard with identification.

After receiving the postcard from a voter, local clerks would have to compare the signature on the return postcard to the signature for that elector on the qualified voter file.

The bill would have also required clerks to compare the signature of a voter on the postcard to the signature for that voter on the qualified voter file, and identify that registration record as challenged if the signature.

According the Secretary of State, Michigan’s qualified voter file currently contains an estimated 600 registered voters with placeholder birthdays and an additional 304,300 registered electors who have not voted since the 2000 general November election. The bill package would bring an estimated cost per mailing of $0.32 per parcel, which would add an additional $100,000 in mailing costs for the Department, according to Senate Fiscal Agency report.

The Democratic governor said Friday she would be proud to sign “common-sense” election reforms that do any of the following: improve access to the ballot for military families by allowing active-duty Michiganders and spouses serving overseas to vote electronically, remove barriers to voting absentee by establishing a permanent absent voter list and expedite election returns by allowing sufficient time for preprocessing of absentee ballots.

“These measures would collectively enhance access to the vote and ensure the orderly administration of our election system,” Whitmer said.

Changes to the state’s election laws have been proposed and vetoed since last year as Republican lawmakers continue their effort to tighten elections following the 2020 election, when President Trump and others made false allegations that the 2020 November election was compromised by fraud.

Whitmer has made it clear she would use her executive power to oppose any GOP-led election bills.

The governor’s latest veto comes as Republican activists ramp up their efforts to collect more than 340,047 signatures for the Secure MI Vote ballot initiative.

Under the proposed law, which would bypass the governor’s veto should Republican lawmakers choose to adopt it, voters who show up on election day without an ID would have to use a provisional ballot that wouldn’t count until that person proves their identity with their local clerk’s office. Voters would get six days to do so.

Secure MI Vote’s petition would also prohibit election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications without a specific request from a voter.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Benson did just that ahead of the November 2020 election, mailing absentee applications to every registered voter, drawing criticism from Republicans who claim without evidence doing so increases opportunities for fraud.

The secretary of state’s efforts in 2020 benefited college students and young people the most, voting rights advocates like Nancy Wang of Voters Not Politicians said at the time.

Benson said last week that her office has not made any decisions regarding the mailing of absentee ballots to voters who did not request them.

“I think it’s important to note there were some very unique factors in 2020, the least of which was the pandemic and the recognition that a number of citizens would be encountering this new right to vote absentee for the first time. That was the first time series of statewide where that right was in place after the 2018 election,” Benson said, adding that a lot of those factors aren’t present this year.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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