LANSING, Mich. — Senate Republicans on Wednesday introduced comprehensive reforms to ensure election access and integrity in Michigan and to restore trust in a system vital to democracy in the state.
“For our democratic system to work, we must ensure the people of Michigan have the ability and opportunity to exercise their right to vote and have confidence in the fairness and accuracy of elections,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, who served as Michigan secretary of state from 2011 until 2018. “This legislation includes commonsense measures that will protect the integrity of our elections by safeguarding the right for people to vote and ensuring our elections are safe and secure.”
“Senate Republicans are committed to making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “We are lucky to have a Senate Elections Committee chair with unique and exceptional experience in running statewide and local elections to lead these bills through the process.”
The Senate Republican measures include 39 bills covering a wide variety of issues dealing with processes before, during and after an election, such as protecting ballot security in drop boxes, ensuring proper management of the state’s Qualified Voter File, requiring training of poll challengers, and ensuring audits are bipartisan and open to the public.
Senate Bills 273-311 were referred to the Senate Elections Committee, which Johnson chairs.
“During a global pandemic last year, Michigan election officials and voters saw many changes to our election processes, including the implementation of provisions approved by voters in Proposal 3 of 2018, such as same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “As we carefully review these bills in the coming months, my goal is to work together to make smart improvements where necessary and build on the processes that worked.”
Johnson is the sponsor of several bills in the package, including reforms to strengthen ballot drop box security requirements, allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote when getting their first driver’s license, improve challengers’ access to observe the counting of absentee votes, restrict the unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, and make it easier for active duty military members to securely vote while overseas.
One of the bills in the package, SB 283, expands on legislation Johnson sponsored last year and would allow larger communities to continue to preprocess — but not count — absentee ballots on the Monday before Election Day.
“This is an example of a reform that worked well last year to reduce the amount of time needed to count absentee ballots on Election Day while still maintaining ballot integrity,” Johnson said.
Johnson also serves as the legislative chair of the national Election Integrity Commission formed by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is exploring and sharing bipartisan best practices from policymakers and election officials from around the country.