Michigan lawmakers push dueling election reform

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On Monday, Republicans and Democrats unveiled separate election reform wishlists for the 2021 legislative session.

State Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, wrote a letter to House Oversight Chair Steve Johnson, R- Wayland, and State Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton Twp, who also serves as the House Elections and Ethics Chair, about their election reform ideas derived from six election hearings.

“Now we transition to the end result – which is developing solutions for the people,” Hall wrote. “The 2020 election cycle will be noted as one of the more contentious elections in the history of the United States. The trust in our elections process has been shaken and it must be restored.”

Hall suggested several reforms, including:

  • Improving training standards for challengers, election workers, and clerks
  • Qualified Voter File (QVF) reforms, including prohibiting third-party organizations from having digital access, for county clerks to be able to remove dead people from the file, and that the Secretary of State update and correct voter rolls
  • Enhancing security and transparency for ballots, including more cameras on all unstaffed absentee voter drop boxes, a localized absentee voter ballot application process, stiffening penalties for providing false information on an absentee voter ballot application
  • Ensuring technology works as intended by calling for additional pre-election equipment testing

“The people of Michigan must have confidence in our elections process because it’s the foundation that keeps our country strong,” Hall said in the letter. “With continued oversight and election reform, we can and will improve Michigan’s electoral process, preserve integrity and give voters confidence in future elections.”
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also unveiled her plan.

“Michigan voters want elections to be accessible, strong and secure. We saw this in 2018 when voters enshrined expanded voting rights in our state constitution, and again in 2020 when record numbers of voters exercised their new rights,” Benson said in a statement. “Our job now is clear: to defend and protect democracy by ensuring that no matter how one votes, who they vote for, where they live, or what they look like, their vote will be counted.”

Benson proposals include:

  • Require absentee ballot applications be mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle
  • Establish early in-person voting
  • Make Election Day a state holiday and make it easier for citizens to serve as election workers
  • Allow processing of absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day
  • Prohibit open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a voting location

The legislation is expected to be introduced by Democrats state Rep. Matt Koleszar, Plymouth, and state Sens. Jeremy Moss, Southfield, Adam Hollier, Detroit, and Paul Wojno, Warren.
Bollin criticized Benson for only working within her own party.

“Secretary Benson expressed a desire to work on reforms with legislators on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, so far, she has only demonstrated an interest in partnering with legislators who happen to be members of her own political party,” Bollin said in a statement.

“If her goal is truly to work together in a bipartisan manner, I can’t imagine why she would continue to bring up emotionally charged policy proposals that have already been struck down by our courts.”

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