Whitmer’s Prop 2 rollout ‘weakens the integrity of our elections’
Implementing legislation goes far beyond mandate of last year’s voting referendum
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an election reform bill package into law July 18 that will implement Proposal 2 requirements and more.
“Michiganders spoke with a clear, united voice in November when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop 2, expanding voting rights,” she tweeted. “Today, I'm proud to sign bipartisan legislation implementing the will of the people, ensuring their voices are heard in every election.”
Proposal 2, a Michigan constitutional amendment that changed election procedures and expanded voting options, passed last year with 60% of the vote. But the bill package meant to implement those changes will also increase the Secretary of State’s power on how, when, and where to conduct elections.
The bills “provide the necessary flexibility to county, city, and township clerks across the state to administer the new reforms,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a press release that applauded the passage of the bill package.
The package includes Senate bills 339, 367, 370, and 373 and House bills 4696, 4697, 4699, and 4702. Taken together, the bills require government to:
- Notify absentee voters of their ballot’s status through an online tracking system
- Implement at least nine consecutive days of early voting
- Allow absentee voters to correct and resubmit their ballot if their signature is deficient or absent
- No longer classify absentee ballots cast without appropriate ID as challenged
- Make more types of photo ID suitable for complying with ID requirements
- Make disclosing an election result from an early voting site before election day a felony subject to a penalty of up to 5 years in prison
- Increase the maximum size of an election precinct from 2,999 active registered voters to 5,500
- Allow any registered voter to fill out a single absent voter application to receive absent voter ballots for every future election
- Require each city or township in Michigan to have at least one absent voter drop box and one for every 15,000 registered electors
- Require the drop box to be accessible 24 hours a day during the 40 days up to election day, and until 8 p.m. on election day
- Require video monitoring of most drop boxes during the 75 days before the election. Governments will not be required to store the video data. The maximum storage capacity for an average industrial security camera can be anywhere between 30 to 90 days before old footage is erased and replaced with new footage.
Most of these changes were approved by voters last November. But the package also includes provisions not approved by voters, like expanding the responsibilities and power of election center clerks and the Secretary of State, or SOS.
Senate Bill 367 allows clerks in municipalities with at least 5,000 people to process and count absentee ballots eight days before Election Day. Municipalities will work closely with the SOS, which the bill assigns the task of “supervising the implementation and conduct of early voting for state and federal elections.”
Advocates of early voting expansion say that the measures will give Michiganders greater flexibility and access to vote. “It did not make sense for Michigan to have a one-size-fits-all system for early voting because of the great variations among communities in our state,” Erica Peresman from Promote the Vote told a House committee June 8.
Promote the Vote was a leading advocate of Proposition 2.
Any single political party, organization, or citizens’ committee can delegate only one challenger for every eight election inspectors at a place where absentee votes are counted. And under SB 370, it is city and township clerks who will verify the legality of absentee votes, instead of boards of election inspectors.
Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, and a former Michigan Secretary of State, voiced concerns about these provisions in a June 13 Senate Elections and Ethics Committee meeting.
“I feel the legislation goes well beyond the mandates of Proposal 2, and further weakens the integrity of our elections,” Johnson said.
The one-time cost of implementing the legislation totals at least $66.5 million, according to official financial impact estimates. The ongoing annual costs will amount to over $42.3 million a year.
Secretary of State Benson has requested $83 million to fund one-time and ongoing costs to implement Proposal 2.
Therese Boudreaux is a Michigan Capitol Confidential intern.
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.