One of the most important, if not the most important, parts of our representative form of government is the act of voting. Voting and elections determine so much of what happens in our state and society, from taxes and spending, to licensing and regulation, entitlements, education, roads, health care and so much more.
I have praised the work of our local and county clerks in Southwest Michigan and for good reason. In 2020, our election officials met many challenges to carry out an election during a global pandemic. They also dealt with numerous changes to our elections process such as same-day registration and no-reason absentee voting, both of which were a result of Proposal 3, which voters approved in 2018. However, it became clear in the months following the recent election that, after a close examination of the elections process, improvements can be made.
It is important for a healthy and vibrant democracy that voters have confidence that our elections are fair, secure, and accurate. Recent legislation introduced in the Senate by me and my colleagues would accomplish that by making improvements in five main areas: making it easier to vote, improving security for absentee voters, protecting the voting process, making election day go more smoothly, and increasing government transparency.
To make it easier to vote, we would provide people with free state-issued identification; allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote when they get a driver’s license but not be entered into the Qualified Voter File until they reach age 18; enable members of the military to vote electronically; and ensuring voters have more information about what they are voting for by including full text of any ballot initiative or constitutional amendment on ballots.
To protect and secure absentee voting, which has become more and more popular, we would require people to request an absentee ballot and present their ID when doing so; strengthen absentee ballot signature verification; increase security of ballot drop boxes, including cameras and ballot transport chain of custody; and allowing absentee ballots to be preprocessed to reduce count time on election day.
To better protect the voting process, we would make sure people are only registered to vote in one place; cross-check the state’s Qualified Voter File with a multi-state compact each year to verify people’s residency and to make sure deceased persons are removed from the list; make sure people’s IDs are checked when they vote; and prohibit any unit of government from accepting money from third-party entities for election-related activities or equipment.
To make election day operate more smoothly, we would ensure local clerks have the resources they need for successful election day operations; require training for poll workers on how to keep balanced poll books; require poll challengers to have proper training about their rights and duties, including by eliminating third-party challengers; and work to make sure each political party has a poll challenger at each location.
And to improve government transparency, we would allow video recording of vote tabulation and auditing; make audits bipartisan and available for anyone to watch; expand the size of boards of canvassers in counties with larger populations; and expand the timeframe for canvassing to 21 days and extend the time local clerks have to submit their official results until noon the day after the election.
A complete list of the introduced Senate election reforms, including links to all the bills, is available online at www.misenategop.com/election-reform/.
This is a package of ideas to improve our elections based on what we learned from local clerks, election workers and voters from all corners of our state. We will be carefully considering these bills in the coming months, building on what worked, to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to working together to make smart changes where necessary and enacting reforms that instill trust in the elections process and confidence in government to make Michigan’s elections better than ever.
As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (517) 373-6960.