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Benson rejects attempt to restrict voting rights

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today rejected an attempt to restrict voting rights by state legislators on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules who proposed revisions to rules her administration drafted to clarify aspects of Michigan's election law and support voters.

"Michigan's citizens voted overwhelmingly in the 2018 election to enshrine in our state constitution their right to vote absentee, and I will not let a small group of partisan legislators restrict those rights to spread and codify long debunked conspiracy theories and lies," said Benson. "The rules we submitted are based on facts, data and longstanding nonpartisan standard election administration practices that support Michigan voters."

In its letters to the Committee rejecting the proposed revisions, the Department of State noted there were individual changes proposed that it would accept. However, under the Administrative Procedures Act, unless the Department accepts all of the proposed revisions holistically, its action is considered a "rejection." 

The Department of State's three rules would do the following:

  • Rule 2021-60 would require candidates to disclose all jurisdictions where they have previously run for office and pay or settle any outstanding campaign finance fees or face disqualification from candidacy. 
    • The Department said it is not opposed to JCAR's proposed change modifying some of the information required from candidates.
  • Rule 2021-61 would codify the guidance that the Bureau of Elections has given to clerks for many years, including under the previous administration, when asked how to conduct signature matching for absentee voting. This would ensure uniformity across the state so that voters are not more likely to be disenfranchised because of where they live. 
    • The Department said it is not opposed to JCAR's proposed change removing the language stating that signatures be reviewed "beginning with the presumption that the voter's signature is his or her genuine, valid signature."
  • Rule 2021-62 would codify use of the existing online absentee ballot application, which many voters used in the 2020 election and have continued to use since.

The Department of State published drafts of the rules in July of 2021. It held a hearing on the rules and accepted public comment in October of 2021, made revisions based on the comments it received, and then submitted the final rules in December. The Committee did not propose its revisions until its meeting on February 24.

By law, the Department then had 30 days to review the proposed revisions and respond. Now that it has rejected the proposed revisions, the Committee has 15 session days to accept the rules as submitted or introduce legislation on the same topics.

In 2018 Michigan voters passed Proposition 3 with nearly 67 percent of ballots cast, giving all voters the right to vote absentee, be registered to vote automatically, and register and vote on Election Day.

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