by Bruce Walker
Republican state legislators are encouraging Michigan voters to register their opinions on three election procedural rules changes promulgated by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
The Department of State will conduct a public hearing on the proposed rules on Friday, Oct. 1.
The three rule changes include:
- Significantly altering the process to allow the disqualification of candidates by city and township clerks for election finance violations;
- Creating a state database of voter signatures whereby voters could upload signatures rather than submitting an original ink signature with local election officials;
- Relaxing standards of signature verification for absentee ballots, relying on an automatic presumption a voter’s signature is valid.
“Secretary Benson is pushing ideas that weaken some of the most important election security safeguards we have in place in order to promote her own political agenda,” Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton Township and chair of the House Election and Ethics Committee, said in a statement. “Your voice matters, and there’s only a short public comment period to make sure the Secretary of State hears your concerns. I encourage anyone who is concerned about our elections to visit this website and submit your comments.”
Regarding the first rule, Bollin said local election officials are not trained to recognize improprieties in candidates’ respective affidavit of identity because city and township training doesn’t include a background in the state’s Campaign Finance Act. Additionally, Bollin asserted, campaign finance reports are filed only with the Secretary of State’s office or a county clerk’s office, which would require city and township clerks to locate and review files.
“Many campaign finance reports are not available online and would require county, township, and city staff to manually search records across the state,” Bollin said. “Having to review potentially thousands of campaign finance records will be a major undertaking that will increase costs and cause delays for clerks’ offices that are already understaffed.”
Candidates who have their affidavit of identity disqualified under the new rule would not be able to reverse the disqualification by filing a correct affidavit, even before the filing deadline.
The second rule change, according to Bollin, is Benson’s second attempt to implement a rule that would allow voters to upload their own signatures rather than submit an ink signature. A previous effort by Benson was rejected by Michigan courts.
The third rule would require election officials to presume a voter’s signature is valid instead of enabling clerks to verify the voter’s identity by comparing the signature on an absentee ballot to the one on file.
“Signature verification is an essential part of preventing fraud in our elections,” Bollin said. “Weakening this safeguard will make our entire system more vulnerable.”
State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, also issued a news release to alert Michigan voters about the proposed changes.
“Secretary Benson’s proposed changes would weaken protections put in place to keep Michigan’s elections secure. The fact is, this is about furthering her own political agenda,” Meerman said. “The voices of Michigan voters matter. Make sure the Secretary of State hears your concerns by filling out this online comment form today.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Jocelyn Benson” by Jocelyn Benson and photo “Michigan State Capitol” by Michigan State Capitol.