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House panel opens hearings on elections bills

Myesha Johnson

The state House Elections Committee opened hearings Tuesday on a package of voting rights bills.

Some of these measures have been long-sought by Democrats, such as making it easier to vote absentee. Some are part of implementing the voting rights amendment adopted by voters last year.

One bill would allow 16-year-olds to pre-register so they’re automatically added to voter rolls when they turn 18.

Democratic Representative Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) is a bill sponsor. She also chairs the elections committee. She said 15 other states already allow pre-registration at 16 years old.

“Mostly it has to do when they’re stepping into more adult responsibilities like driver’s license(s),” she said.

Tsernoglou said local clerks learned a lot from dealing with COVID that should be carried over into future elections.

“There’s a lot of things that we would have not otherwise done, like working from home for a lot of people,” she said. “But it’s turned out these things continued because they actually make sense. They’re convenient. They’re cost-saving.”

Republicans on the committee were skeptical and said they’re concerned that making voting easier could also make elections less secure.

Representative Jay DeBoyer (R-Clay) said many protocols established to help people vote during the pandemic are no longer necessary.

“I think it’s undeniable that the internet is not secure,” he said. “I think you’ll get testimony from myriads and myriads and myriads of experts on that.”

Election clerks, all or mostly Democrats, testified that signing up to vote online is secure, and the bills would still require people either to vote in person or using a physical absentee ballot.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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