LANSING, Mich.—The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has approved petition language for a citizens’ initiative that, its supporters say, will help stamp out election fraud in this important swing state.
The initiative requires all voters to present a valid Michigan driver’s license, passport, or state ID card when voting in person. A signed affidavit by a person not having a photo ID would no longer suffice.
It also forbids governmental units from mass-mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications and prohibits the funding of any portion of the election process by nongovernmental entities.
“We are happy the petition drive is off and rolling,” said Jamie Roe, a spokesperson for SecureMIVote, the grassroots organization that filed the language.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has repeatedly vowed to veto any measure she believes would restrict the voting rights of Michigan residents.
But the SecureMIVote proposal isn’t a bill, nor does it originate in the state legislature; it’s voter-initiated legislation.
If the petition drive collects more than 340,000 valid signatures within six months, under Michigan law, the Republican-controlled state legislature could vote to accept the proposal as the will of the people and it would become law, or it could be placed on the ballot as a referendum in the next general election.
A recent public opinion poll commissioned by the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce showed that 79.7 percent of 600 Michigan registered voters surveyed support requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
“Either way, Michigan law says our proposal would not be subject to a veto by the governor,” Roe said.
Just hours after the board announced its decision to approve the language of the SecureMIVote initiative, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, also a Democrat, issued a blistering statement urging Michiganders to join the governor’s office in opposing the plan, which he labeled “anti-democracy and anti-American.”
“Every Michigan voter … should be offended and angered by this deceitful effort to change the rules just because some people did not like the results of the 2020 election,” Gilchrist said.
“This is a dishonest effort that is wrong for Michigan. Its purpose is to make voting harder,” he said.
In response, Roe told The Epoch Times, “The Democrats just want to keep the options for voter fraud open.”
Under the proposed plan, prior to an election, photo ID cards would be provided at state expense to any qualified Michigan resident desiring one.
If a person shows up to vote without a photo ID, the current option to sign an affidavit attesting, under penalty of perjury, that the individual is who they say they are; that option would be ended. Instead, the person will be given a provisional ballot, which will be counted only if the person returns with a valid photo ID within six days of the election.
In the 2020 presidential election, 11,400 individuals signed such affidavits.
Mindful that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016 by just 10,704 votes, Roe and his fellow reformers are taking a zero-tolerance approach to any potential for election fraud.
The proposal would also stiffen Michigan’s present voter ID requirements by eliminating what Roe calls “the subjective process” of election workers matching the signatures on returned absentee ballot envelopes with voter signatures on file with the election officials.
The new plan would require all absentee voters to write their Michigan driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number along with their signature on the sleeve containing their sealed ballot.
The names and numbers wouldn’t be connectable to the ballot, which would remain secret.
“Because of the pandemic, in 2020, state government mailed out absentee ballot applications to the address of every name on the registered voter list. Many applications went out to people who had not lived at that address for years, or who had died,” Roe said.
Political parties or other advocacy groups may continue to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications under the new plan.
The proposal’s provision barring election officials from accepting outside assistance, either in cash or in-kind contributions, for any aspect of conducting an election is important to preserving the American system, Roe said.
“Conducting and administering elections is inherently a government function. No outside entities should be funding our elections,” he said.
A week before the Nov. 3 election in 2020, two foundations connected with the National Basketball Association donated a combined $10,000 to help the heavily Democratic city of Flint set up absentee ballot drop boxes.
More than 470 Michigan municipalities received grants in 2020 from the Center for Tech & Civic Life, a nonprofit organization generously financed by other foundations and corporations, including tech giants Facebook and Google. A large share of the so-called COVID-19 Relief grants helped local governments pay for election-related expenses in both Democratic and Republican areas of Michigan.
Roe said he expects vehement opposition to his group’s petition drive, financed largely by out-of-state money.
“Some of the organizations opposed to us are openly telling media outlets that they will be out in force to disrupt our signature gatherers as they work in our collection booths,” he said.