Secretary Benson submits testimony opposing voter suppression bill package

Election newsAPRIL 28, 2021

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson submitted testimony to the state Senate Elections Committee today opposing legislation being taken up this afternoon in senate Republicans' 39-bill voter suppression package.

"It's particularly disappointing that on the heels of the most successful, accessible and secure election in our state's history, where more people voted than ever before, many of the bills taken up for discussion today would eliminate the very policies and procedures that made it successful and replace them with rules to restrict access and erect barriers to democracy," Benson stated in her testimony. "For over two years, my office and the clerks throughout this state have sought to work with members of this committee to modernize our election laws in a way that furthers best practices and does right by all voters. Even recently, offering input on several of these and other bills, we have sought to inform you and your staff on the way they are either misguided, poorly drafted, unnecessary, or simply bad policy. Our suggestions are consistently ignored or dismissed. So I am submitting this written testimony today to formally underscore several of the most problematic aspects of these proposals."

She noted that Senate Bill 287 would ban local clerks from prepaying postage on absentee ballot return envelopes, for no reason other than to make it more difficult for all voters, and particularly low income voters, to exercise their right to vote absentee. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 305 would inexplicably bar the most trusted sources of voter education and election information in our state - the Secretary of State and election clerks - from educating citizens about the mechanics of voting while Senate Bill 282, based entirely on misinformation about the 2020 election, restricts access to the voter file in a way that would prohibit the staff of the State of Michigan's own technology department from accessing it - despite the fact that they built it, they update it, and they maintain its security. Finally, while Senate Bill 274 appears to enable 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote, it only provides one narrow path for them to do so and places unnecessary barriers to completing their registration that no other voters face.

Benson said legislators could pursue a different path.

"Following the 2020 election I proposed a plan of policies that would build on our successes and ensure we replicated what worked to bring about the most successful, secure, and accurate election our state has seen in recent history," she said. "I hope today and in the weeks that follow you commit to listening to those voters and our clerks, and work with all of us to truly advance the vote and protect democracy in our state."

A copy of Secretary Benson's testimony can be found here.

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