Promote the Vote Ballot Initiative Puts Mich. Elections in Grave Danger
Updated: Oct 27
On July 11, a non-profit, Promote the Vote, turned in a signature petition with 669,972 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. The Michigan Constitution allows these types of petitions to be circulated and placed onto the ballot for citizen approval if it can meet or exceed a formula that in this case equals 425,059 signatures. This is a well-funded effort and most observers expect the Secretary of State’s office to approve it prior to September 9, and place it on the ballot to be voted up or down by the citizens of Michigan on Nov. 8. If passed, these measures will be enshrined in Michigan’s state Constitution.
The initiative cleverly cites buzzwords that are popular with voters such as “photo ID,” and “military ballots be counted.” On closer look, the petition language proposes to decimate election integrity in Michigan. This initiative is a full-fledged attack on the purity of Michigan’s elections.
The proposed changes to Michigan’s election laws would gut the heart and soul out of fair and honest elections in Michigan. Should Promote the Vote be approved for the Nov. 8 ballot, it is imperative that it be voted down. Otherwise, Michigan’s elections will be bought and paid for by out-of-state donors, fake voters, and the large cities.
Obvious bad provisions. Some provisions are obviously bad for Michigan. The language requires drop boxes for absentee ballots, and it creates nine days of early in-person voting. Drop boxes are the Achilles heel of modern elections. They make ballot chain-of-custody and the prevention of ballot tampering almost impossible. In regard to early voting, localities that have a long-standing reputation of fraud will present nine days of opportunities for fraud. The process of tracking ballots becomes extremely difficult when states create multiple ways to receive, and even more ways to return, ballots.
Hidden Trojan horses. Promote the Vote brims with less obvious poison pills and trojan horses that will destroy Michigan elections.
Wide-ranging liability. First, the language purports to protect voters from harassment – something we ALL agree on. But rather than prohibiting blocking the door to a precinct or stealing a mail-in ballot, the proposal states, “No personal shall (1) enact or use any law, rule, regulation, qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure” to burden the right to vote. The ambiguous language could mean practically anything. In fact, if the legislature passed a bill out of committee that required photo ID, this constitutional amendment appears to leave each legislator open to legal action.
Awards fees if partially successful. Unfortunately, the language goes a step further. It creates a constitutional right of non-profits to sue individuals and receive attorney’s fees on behalf of the aggrieved. It leaves attorney’s fees as an option, and worse. This proposal instructs that the circuit court “shall” award attorney’s fees to the plaintiff, even if the plaintiff is only partially successful.
Inherent bias. Finally, the proposal requires that a jurisdiction be where the aggrieved lives and votes. Most election corruption occurs in America’s large cities. This provision will ensure that anyone who challenges a Detroit voter’s registration will be sued in Detroit in front of Detroit judges.
Late-arriving ballots: An open invitation to abuse. The petition requires late-arriving military ballots to be counted. The goal of counting every military ballot should be our paramount concern and absolutely non-negotiable. However, in large central count centers like Detroit’s TCF/Huntington Center, late-arriving ballots are not properly checked. When we allow a small number of late-arriving ballots to be counted, we open the door to large amounts of unchecked paper ballots to flow in during post-election.
In early America, late-arriving ballots after the totals were known was the preferred method of election fraud. (See Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 Senate Race and “Box 13). This provision cracks open the door to late-arriving ballots. Anyone who has been in Detroit on election day know that chaos rules the day. This provision is an open invitation to abuse.
Instead, we should be requiring military ballots to be received on time. We owe this to our men and women serving us overseas. The Secretary of State could simply move up the timeline to certify the ballot form and send the ballots overseas earlier.
No Photo ID. Promote the Vote’s petition is clever in that it requires, “photo ID or signed statement”. This is an example of an exception that will swallow the rule. Everyone should be required to show state-issued photo ID in order to vote. However, providing a fraudulent voter with a choice seems unwise. This does nothing to stop fraudulent voters from voting, and at best makes it actionable after the ballot has been cast.
If someone is attempting to vote fraudulently, his conscience is unlikely to stop him from signing an affidavit. The practical effect of this rule will be that law abiding citizens show their photo ID, while those attempting to lie, cheat, and steal in the election arena will sign a document promising they’re telling the truth. Proponents of this “reform” may argue that these voters will be given a provisional ballot. Yet, we know from previous elections that provisional ballots are oftentimes comingled with legal ballots and tabulated, ensuring that it cannot be tracked and later undone.
Permanent Absentee Voter List. The initiative creates a permanent absentee voter list. In other words, once a voter requests an absentee ballot, she will be placed on the list to receive an absentee ballot for the rest of her life. One of the major modern barriers to post-election ballot reconciliation, is the number of mail-in ballots that are mailed out and never returned. A properly run election accounts for every voted, spoiled, damaged, and unused ballot at the end of an election. These numbers can then be compared against a single master list of voters who voted. This ensures not simply that the ballots were counted correctly, but that the ballots were legitimately cast in the first place.
However, in an age where a state has millions of mail-in ballots in circulation, this process becomes impossible to complete. Actors who may not want a full post-election accounting of ballots, may favor a permanent absentee voter list because it inflates the number of ballots in circulation which makes cheating much easier.
If a state were genuinely concerned about reducing the risk of fraudulently-printed ballots being injected into the stream of genuine ballots to sway the results of an election, it would minimize the number of excess ballots in circulation.
Certainly, excess absentee ballots in circulation run the risk that a person with nefarious intentions could obtain these excess ballots and cast fraudulent votes. Yet the bigger danger is that large numbers of excess ballots in circulation inflate the overall number of voter participation and provide cover if someone were to fraudulently inject counterfeit ballots into the stream of mail-in ballots. No election official can abide a 120% voter turnout rate. But having tens or hundreds of thousands of excess ballots in circulation provides cover for new fraudulent ballots to enter the ballot stream without raising official turnout numbers so high as to appear suspect.
Stamps for Voting. The amendment would also continue to favor mail-in voting, while suppressing in-person voting. Democrats would be outraged if republicans, who vote overwhelmingly in-person by driving their cars to the polls, suggested that the government give a gas credit to voters for driving to the polls. Yet, this language creates a subsidy to get out the vote for democrats, a demographic that voted overwhelmingly by mail in the last election.
Disproportionate Private Funding of Elections. The amendment also enshrines the right of non-profit and outside groups to fund Michigan elections. And the problem gets worse. The legislature doesn’t approve per capita spending so that it is equally applied across the board. Instead, it gives the rights to “the county, city, or township shall retain discretion over whether to accept or use any such donations.” Thus, left-wing groups like the Center for Tech and Civic Life could continue to choose favorites and work with government to get out the vote in almost any way imaginable in cities like Detroit, while leaving rural jurisdictions to receive nothing. Over a dozen states have adopted bans on this type of disproportionate favoritism of private funding over the past two years. While much of the country has taken steps forward, Michigan is looking to take a step backward. This rips open the door for billionaires to come in and buy Michigan’s elections.
An increase in partisan power. Finally, the statute divests local canvassing boards of any oversight or certification power, relegating them to a ministerial duty. This will be especially troubling in a place like Detroit where republicans have trouble being hired as poll inspectors, are almost never hired as precinct chiefs, and poll observers and challengers are blocked from seeing what is going on. Now, the last bastion of accountability, the county board of canvassers, consisting of two republican and two democrat appointees, will be stripped of its power.
by Timothy Griffin, ESQ, Thomas More Society