MI Anti-Voter Bills

Michiganders have overwhelmingly supported efforts to have more freedom, choice and accessibility at the ballot box. Unfortunately, a handful of state lawmakers and potential right-wing ballot initiative threaten to take us backward.

Earlier this year, as part of a nationally-coordinated attackMichigan Senate Republicans introduced 39-bills that target our elections. Most of these bills are a direct attack on our voting rights. Overall, these bills would:
  • Put deliberate barriers between Michiganders and their freedom to vote
  • Tie the hands of local clerks and election officials from informing people about their voting rights
  • Inject more unaccountable, partisan control over our election processes
  • Limit drop box access for Michigan voters
  • Take away voting options before and on Election Day

To read the bills yourself, you can visit the Michigan Legislature’s website and read bills SB 273 through SB 311.

For a breakdown of all these anti-voter bills, we’ve included a summary below from the Detroit Free Press:

Among the proposed changes contained in the 39 bills: 

  • Require drop boxes for absentee ballots to be approved by the secretary of state and the county board of canvassers. Require the removal of absentee ballot drop boxes used in the November general election that aren’t approved. Implement new requirements for monitoring such boxes. (SB 273)
  • Allow those between the ages of 16 and 17½  to pre-register to vote if they meet certain conditions. (SB 274) 
  • Allow individuals from each political party to observe and record election audits carried out at precincts and allow clerks to provide live video coverage of counting boards tasked with processing and counting absentee ballots. (SB 275)
  • Authorize election inspectors, challengers and poll watchers to photograph and film the tabulation of votes. (SB 276)
  • Allow county clerks to flag deceased voters in the qualified voter file — which houses each voter’s information and is widely used for many election needs — and require them to notify local clerks of any people who have died in the county every two weeks and then every week the 45 days before an election. (SB 277)
  • Require those collecting absentee ballots from drop boxes to carry ballots in approved containers and require clerks to document each time ballots are collected. (SB 278)
  • Modify the number of election challengers allowed to observe absent voter counting boards based on the number of absentee ballots assigned to the board. (SB 279)
  • Require the board of state canvassers to complete the canvass of an initiative petition within 100 days after the petition is filed. (SB 280)
  • Require the secretary of state to collect information from multistate programs and partnerships the secretary of state is participating in to verify voters’ addresses and registration status. Require the secretary of state to post on the department of state’s website the number of voters who moved out of state, the number of voters who changed addresses, duplicate voter registration records, voters who died and the results of investigations concerning improper votes among other information.(SB 281) 
  • Limit who can access the qualified voter file. (SB 282)
  • Change the deadline for county board of canvassers to examine ballot containers. Allow clerks in large jurisdictions to begin processing but not counting absentee ballots the day before the election. (SB 283)
  • Require the secretary of state to provide a report to the Legislature detailing any contracts entered into for an election-related activity or service. Prohibit the state, counties, cities and townships from accepting contributions from individuals and entities to be used for election-related activities or election equipment. (SB 284)
  • Require those requesting an absentee ballot to present identification to their local clerk or attach a copy of their ID to their application. Require clerks to issue a provisional absentee ballot to those who fail to show ID. (SB 285)
  • Prohibit voters from using a drop box after 5 p.m. the day before Election Day. (SB 286)
  • Prohibit clerks from providing prepaid postage for absentee ballot return envelopes and prohibit the secretary of state from providing funding for prepaid postage. (SB 287)
  • Require statewide election audits conducted in a precinct to be carried out by members of the two major political parties and allow political parties to designate observers to monitor the audit and require the secretary of state to provide live video streaming of an audit. (SB 288)
  • Require federal funds for election-related purposes to only be spent upon appropriation in a budget act and require any funds that aren’t appropriated within a budget act within 90 days to be returned to the federal government. (SB 289)
  • Require election challengers to wear an identification badge. (SB 290)
  • Amend the criminal code to expand election-related felonies. (SB 291)
  • Require the secretary of state to establish training for election challengers. Require challengers to be associated with a political party, as opposed to groups advocating for a ballot proposition, and mandate they take training at least once every three years. Parties would need to offer this training at least three days before an election. (SB 292)
  • Repeal a portion of criminal law related to election challengers appointed by entities that are not political parties. SB 292 bill would only allow political parties to provide challengers. (SB 293)
  • Require the local board of election commissioners to strive to appoint the same number of Democratic and Republican election inspectors for every election precinct. This can be a challenge in areas that have substantially more Republican or Democratic voters — chiefly Detroit. If the board cannot appoint an essentially equal number of inspectors based on the party, the local clerk would need to send a report to the state within 10 days of the election explaining what was done to search for inspectors. (SB 294)
  • Require hourly checks by precinct officials to ensure that during the ballot counting process, the number of ballots issued at a precinct matches the number of ballots tabulated at a precinct. While this law is intended to prevent out-of-balance precincts, it seemingly doesn’t account for someone receiving an absentee ballot but not ultimately casting it. (SB 295)
  • Abolish every existing board of canvassers in a county with at least 200,000 starting in 2022. In a county with 200,000 to 750,000 people, it would require six-member boards. In larger counties, it would require eight-member boards. While boards now generally consist of four people, keeping boards at an even number would still allow for the chance that certification votes end in a tie. (SB 296)
  • Require at least one Republican and Democrat be present at all times during an election canvass. Require board approval for the clerk to hire any associate who would help with the canvass. (SB 297)
  • Extend the amount of time for an election canvass to be certified from 14 days after an election to 21 days. (SB 298)
  • Require election inspectors to deliver the statement of election returns and a vote tally sheet in a sealed envelope to the local clerk by noon the day after the election. (SB 299)
  • Require holding on-site early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second Saturday before any election. Clerks would need to post where and when early voting sites would be open. It would be a felony to reveal results from an early voting period until after polls closed on Election Day. (SB 300)
  • Create criminal violations for tampering with ballots cast early or with revealing the results from early voting. (SB 301)
  • Require voter registration applications include a provision where applicants attest that they do not claim voting residence or have the right to vote in another state. It’s unclear whether this would entail whether a person is registered to vote in another state, even if that person moved away from that state to Michigan. (SB 302)
  • Ramp up the state’s voter identification requirements. Right now, voters who do not have photo identification can sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. This bill would instead mandate that they be issued provisional ballots, subject to a separate process of counting and verification. (SB 303)
  • Outline how voters who want their provisional ballots to count would verify their identity. The bill would require these voters to prove their identity within six days of the election — if they present a government-issued ID that does not include an address, voters would also need to present a document such as a utility bill or bank statement verifying their address. (SB 304)
  • Ban elected officials from including their names on publicly funded materials that have anything to do with elections. Officials could post the names of offices and contact information, but not the name of the election official. In theory, this would prohibit the secretary of state or county clerks from using taxpayer dollars to campaign while spreading election information. In practice, the measure would likely make it a misdemeanor for an elected official to post a news release with a quote on social media. (SB 305)
  • Require the secretary of state to submit a report to the Legislature and publicly post within 45 days of an election the names of all local clerks who have not conducted required training. (SB 306)
  • Require the full text of a ballot proposal be included on absentee ballots and ballots cast in person. (SB 307)
  • Mandate the secretary of state create a signature verification process and that local clerks be trained on that process. This comes in response to misinformation about signatures on absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots. (SB 308)
  • Outline rules and regulations for poll watchers and poll challengers. It explains the duties of both positions, where they are allowed to stand on Election Day, what they are allowed to challenge and how to resolve disputes. Republicans argued challengers and watchers at TCF Center in Detroit were prevented from monitoring election workers last fall, but the city and Democrats argued these challengers did not understand their roles and ignored COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. (SB 309)
  • Prohibit the secretary of state from either mailing absentee ballot applications or posting these applications on a website. The secretary could only mail an application to someone who requested that application. It was not immediately clear whether any other entity — such as local clerks or political parties — would be banned from mailing out unsolicited applications. Republicans routinely argue mailing out applications to voters who did not request them may increase the chances of voter fraud. Voter fraud is exceptionally rare, and there is no evidence that mass mailings of applications drastically increases fraud. (SB 310)
  • Allow active duty service members who are deployed at the time of an election to cast a ballot electronically, as long as signature verification measures are created and used. (SB 311)

Paid for by Progress Michigan, 614 Seymour Ave., Lansing, MI 48933