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Politics & Government

Benson: Michigan Voting Bills More Restrictive Than Georgia

Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

Michigan’s top election official on Thursday blasted Republican-backed voting bills that are pending in the Legislature, calling them an “un-American” affront to voters and saying some would be more restrictive than a controversial new law in Georgia.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said Georgia voters can get an absentee ballot if they include a driver’s license number on the mailed-in application. One of the Michigan measures would require voters to attach a copy of their driver’s license to the application.

It “serves no other purpose than to make it harder for them to vote absentee,” she said during a virtual news conference with Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey and a Democratic legislator. “There’s no evidence or data or even precedent to suggest that that somehow would prevent voter fraud.”

Benson noted Michigan voters currently must sign an application. The signature is matched to the signature in the voter file. She said it is “much more difficult” to forge a signature than it is to photocopy a fake ID.

The 39-bill package in the Senate would, among other things, also require photo ID to vote in person, prohibit the use of absentee ballot drop boxes on Election Day and ban prepaid postage on return envelopes.

“It is un-American and an affront to every voter in the state,” Benson said, calling the legislation “poisonous.” Winfrey said the proposed ban on prepaid postage, a practice she started some 15 years ago in majority-Black Detroit, would discriminate against poor people.

Major Michigan-based companies this week issued a joint statement objecting to any legislative moves to reduce election participation.

Benson, who oversaw a 2020 election in which a record number of people voted, accused GOP lawmakers of “doubling down on the big lie” — former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that he lost reelection only because of mass voter fraud.

A Senate committee will begin considering some bills next week.

Abby Walls, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, stressed that senators have not voted on the legislation.

“We are just beginning the committee process, where will be hear from all sides on ways to make improvements,” she said. “These bills are about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Several bills as written would be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer if they reached her desk. But the state Republican Party has said it plans a maneuver that would enable the Legislature to pass them into law anyway if enough voter signatures were gathered for a ballot initiative.

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