News Story

Lawsuit alleging 26K dead on Michigan voter rolls will go on

SOS Benson has purged 330k dead voters from Qualified Voter List since 2019. How many remain?

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Secretary of State did not regularly purge dead voters from Qualified Voter List. It does. Prior to the audit, it did not regularly reconcile the voter list from the Driver's License File.

A federal lawsuit alleging that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has refused to remove 26,000 dead people from Michigan's Qualified Voter List will proceed, after a judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The Public Interest Law Firm filed the case against Benson, in her official capacity, in November 2021. It alleges Benson has failed to purge Michigan’s Qualified Voter List of the deceased, and now should be compelled by the court to do so.

“The foundation’s analysis of Michigan’s voter roll and verifiable death records reveals that, as of August 2021, 25,975 potentially deceased registrants are on Michigan’s voter rolls,” the lawsuit claims. “Of those, 23,663 registrants have been dead for five years or more, 17,479 registrants have been dead for at least ten years, and 3,956 registrants have been dead for at least 20 years.”

Is it true? The Secretary of State won’t say, citing ongoing litigation.

In March, Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler, in a performance audit of the Bureau of Elections, found 3,650 dead people on the voter rolls during a seven-week review between December 2020 and March 2021. Benson's office did not regularly reconcile the Qualified Voter List from the Driver's License List, the audit found.

Jake Rollow, a spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State, told CapCon that voters who have died recently are purged regularly from the list. It's the backward-looking process, of eliminating voters who may have died years ago, that takes longer, he explained.

"The Social Security Administration sends us the Social Security master death index, it updates on a weekly basis," Rollow said. " On the basis of that file, those registrations are canceled. the updates to it on a weekly basis, people who have died in Michigan, and on a weekly basis based on that file, that index. Those registrations are canceled."

After the audit, the Secretary of State said it would conduct quarterly reviews.

Would those reviews have caught 26,000 dead people? The Secretary of State won’t say, citing ongoing litigation.

In March, the same month the audit came out, Benson declared that “Michigan’s voter registration list is more accurate than ever.”

Benson's office says that since 2019, when she took office, 330,374 voter registrations of dead people have been canceled.

The question now is: How many remain?

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Western District of Michigan, asks that the court order Benson to “immediately and thoroughly investigate the deceased registrations identified by the Foundation and remove confirmed deceased registrant” from the Qualified Voter File, and to create a “reasonable list-maintenance program.”

It also asks that Benson be required to “allow inspection of records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of Michigan’s official lists of eligible voters.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.