Benson, Nessel denounce effort to restrict voting rights and burden election officials

Election NewsMAY 26, 2021

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel denounced bills before the state Senate Elections Committee based on falsehoods about the 2020 election.

Senate Bills 303 and 304 would force anyone who arrives at their polling place without ID to vote a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if the voter is later able to provide proof of ID to their local clerk. However, more than 99 percent of citizens who vote at their polling place present an ID. The handful who don't must identify themselves by signing an affidavit under penalty of perjury, which is stored and maintained with other election records.

"Let's be clear, Michigan's elections are already among the most secure and accessible in the country. Our current ID laws work, and are part of a robust system to ensure that only eligible citizens are able to cast ballots in our elections," said Benson. "There is absolutely no evidence that this legislation would build on those current security protocols to increase the integrity of the system. But there is considerable evidence that it would make it more difficult for eligible citizens to vote."

Benson noted she was encouraged that the public pressure on state legislators is working, as evidenced by the introduction of substitutes for Senate bills 285 and 310 in response to heavy criticism from Benson and AARP Michigan. However, Senate Bill 285 would still expose voters to identity theft, by suggesting they include a photocopy of their identification when mailing their absentee ballot request form. Identity theft scams often target seniors, and the population ages 50 and over cast 64 percent of the 3.3 million absentee ballots voted in November.

"Even with the latest substitute, voters are asked to open themselves up for identity theft by mailing certain personal information to secure an absentee ballot. The bill is looking to solve a problem that doesn't exist and instead puts forth an obstacle that asks Michigan voters to make themselves vulnerable in order to vote," said Nessel. "My Department investigated multiple claims of voter fraud and even charged individuals with crimes for attempting to commit voter fraud during the 2020 election. Ultimately, we never found evidence of fraud that would have impacted its outcome."

Additionally, Secretary Benson noted that despite state lawmakers' failure to sufficiently fund elections for decades, Senate Bill 289 would enable them to withhold federal election grants. This would subject funding needed to carry out elections to the partisan games lawmakers routinely play with state funds. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 284 would ban local election officials from accepting funds from third parties for election administration, despite the fact that hundreds of Michigan jurisdictions demonstrated the need for such funding in 2020 for basic functions like hiring election workers and purchasing equipment.

Neither bill would increase election security, and without consistent funding elections could become unsecure.

"The reality is that our elections are safe, secure and accurate. And if anyone has lost faith in this, it's only because of leaders who lied or allowed lies to spread and be repeated. But that doesn't change the truth, nor current leaders' responsibility to tell it," said Benson. "It's time we call these bills what they are. They are not an effort to combat voter fraud. They are an effort to reduce voter turnout."

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