GOP group clears step to pursue Michigan voting restrictions
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican organizers of veto-proof legislation that would make it harder to vote cleared a procedural step Thursday when the Michigan elections board approved a 100-word summary that will appear on top of the ballot petition.
Once the Board of State Canvassers also clears the petition’s form, likely Monday, Secure MI Vote will soon after begin collecting signatures, spokesman Jamie Roe said.
The group needs roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures over six months and has made clear it wants the GOP-controlled Legislature to enact the bill in 2022 rather than let it go on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could not veto it.
The initiative would require prospective absentee voters to provide a copy of their photo identification with the application or to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. People currently seeking an absentee ballot must sign the application, and the signature is matched to the voter file.
The measure would toughen a requirement that voters submit photo ID by eliminating the ability for those without one to sign an affidavit and still vote. Instead, they — and absentee voters who fail to attach their ID information — would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity within six days of the election for it to count.
The initiated legislation would require the last four digits of a Social Security number to register to vote. The secretary of state and local clerks would be prohibited from sending absentee applications to people who did not request them. The initiative also would would specify minimum times that clerks must accept absentee ballots for in-person or drop box delivery, prohibit the use of private donations to administer elections and create a $3 million fund to waive ID fees for low-income people.
The funding shields the measure from a later referendum.
Canvassers blessed the 100-word summary after making changes to incorporate feedback from Democrats and voting-rights advocates who oppose the petition and will urge voters to not sign it. The summary had already been significantly revised by Jonathan Brater, director of the state elections bureau.
“The reforms here provide confidence in the conduct of elections as well as our democratic system,” said Charlie Spies, a lawyer for Secure MI Vote.
“It is not about protecting the vote or increasing participation. It is about making it far more difficult to vote absentee,” said Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the Michigan Democratic Party. “It even seeks to make it more difficult to register to vote.”
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