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Did the Michigan Legislature Throw the Dog a Bone?


By Elizabeth Ayoub, MFE writer | July 7, 2023


From the moment an individual files paperwork to run for public office and becomes a candidate, that candidate appears to listen and care about the public, voters, and potential constituents. “Come one and all,” they promise, both in person and on the hundreds of brochures that pack individual mailboxes. “You have my ear, and I’ll work for you.”


Some candidates list phone numbers and take phone calls from potential constituents. “Tell me your concerns,” they tout, “and I’ll work for you.”


Then comes the day after the election.


The public, voters, potential constituents -- none seem to exist any longer. They fade to invisibility to all too many legislators who act as if these constituents don’t know what they are talking about. Constituents become as annoying to legislators as a yapping dog jumping to be walked.


These constituents who once were smart and wise enough to vote these legislators into office are no longer smart enough to offer meaningful information. This transformation was demonstrated all too clearly to the public this last session as the Michigan legislature passed a bevy of election bills with little to no public comment. Constituents who went to speak were turned away. Voters constituents whose tax dollars pay the legislators' salaries were not permitted to speak regarding election bills.


This past week the public was thrown a bone. Good Public.


Among the bevy of election bills that the Michigan legislature passed without giving committee members time to process, without hearing public comment, and without listening to the opinions of former election officials or to PIME, a premiere election integrity organization, were bills that gave the Secretary of State Benson unprecedented control over our elections.


The passage of SB 367, as Senator Ruth Johnson lamented, allows for "No more legislative review. No more need to have public hearings." No need to even notify the public or the legislature of the secretary's rule changes. The bill and its mirror likeness House Bill 4695, which passed House, allow up to 29 days of early voting at the discretion of the local clerk. So a month of voting is now possible. Also, early voting days will be different from municipality to municipality, further confusing voters.


Other bills passed the legislature, skirting much or any public comment:


SB 373/HB 4698 loosens ID requirement to "any public or private institution authorized to issue a diploma, degree, certificate or license, or grant approval to practice a profession or engage in an enterprise."


SB 369/HB 4699 provide a check-box on the application to allow permanent absentee ballot mailings. This bill will keep the state sending ballots until a voter has not voted for 6 consecutive years before canceling the permanent ballot mailings.


SB 370/HB 4700 allows voters to use an electronic signature not only on the absentee ballot application, but also on any required 'cure' forms. The bill also give the SOS the authority to provide voters with options "other than by providing a signature" to cure a ballot. Taxpayers will pay postage for ballot applications and ballots, and also for any ballot 'curing' forms that are required. Tracking system that was developed in the last legislative session would be expanded to allow voters to opt-in to being contacted about issues with their ballot. But the new bill allows voters to 'cure' ballots up until 3 days AFTER election day. This risks election results not being available for several days after the election.


SB 0339 Under the guise of helping voters track their absentee ballots, this bill allows the Secretary of State to share voters’ private data with third parties like the Electronic Registration Information Center, which by contract can share its data with anyone it chooses..


All these bills were rammed through the legislature.


The Michigan legislature did pull one election bill, however, from going forward for a vote.


Chew, Good Public, chew.


HB4210 / SB759 as proposed would allow for an absent uniformed services voter or spouse or an overseas voter TO VOTE by electronic transmission.


An “overseas voter” is defined as an individual who resides outside of the United States and is qualified to vote in the last place in which the individual was domiciled before leaving the United States. The way the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) works is this: A person who (supposedly) lives overseas can register to vote electronically. State laws vary, but in Michigan an overseas voter can request and receive their ballot electronically. This bill would have allowed them to also return it and vote electronically--all without ever seeing a human being, without ever showing ID, without showing their Social Security number, without proving they were citizens, and without ever having lived in the United States, let alone in this state.


It is not difficult for any constituent to understand why this bill couldn't garner enough support to go to the floor for vote. It would have been refreshing to those who are concerned about secure and safe elections to think the bill was pulled because of their public comments. But these comments were not permitted.


Thankfully, MFE, PIME and AMAC (Association of Mature American Citizens) sent out calls to action. Legislators' ears burned at the bays of thousands of citizen emails and phone calls. Then, Alex Halderman, Ph.D. an SOS Benson appointed cybersecurity expert, took a bite out of the bill when he testified that electronic ballots "cannot be secured."


So, this bill was not sent to the entire House floor, one reason to celebrate. Grab the bone, Good Public. Sit. Stay.

[1] HB4210 / SB 759(5)


Mark your calendar:


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