Michigan lawmakers review election bills that would ban unsolicited absentee ballots

One of the bills would prohibit election officials from sending unsolicited absent voter ballot applications.

Updated: October 19, 2021 - 10:32pm

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The Michigan House Elections and Ethics Committee heard testimony on four election bills on Tuesday.

Rep. Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, sponsored House Bill (HB) 5335, which aims to require city and township clerks to provide challengers in that precinct or absent voter (AV) counting boards with a visible identification badge that includes the word “challenger” and could include the precinct location or number but not the challenger’s name, the name or logo of a political party, or any other identifying mark not authorized in the bill.

Damoose said requiring badges for challengers would ease tracking challenges, and reduce overall confusion on election day.

Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton, said the bill would validate the process of being a poll challenger.

HB 5268 seeks to prohibit election officials from sending unsolicited absent voter ballot applications. Under the bill, AV ballot applications could not be sent out or made available to electors more than 75 days before an election unless they specifically requested them. Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent out absentee ballot applications before the 2020 presidential election, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to make socially distanced voting easier. The move cost the state $4.2 million in federal funding.

SB 302 aims to modify a voter registration application to include a claim of one residence for voting rights. The bill would require a voter registration application to include a statement that the elector understood that it is a felony to or attempt to vote more than once at the same election either in the same or another voting precinct.

HB 4286 aims to revise the deadline for a write-in candidate for precinct delegate to file a declaration of intent. Currently, the deadline for write-in candidates for most offices to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate is on or before 4 p.m. on the second Friday immediately before the election.

The deadline for write-in candidates for precinct delegates is on or before 4 p.m. on the Friday immediately before the election. The bill would delay the deadline for those write-in candidates a week to align it with the deadline for other offices. The bill would keep a requirement that clerks maintain a supply of declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate forms in the clerk’s office, but remove a requirement that they are made available at polling places during the August primary.

The bills are part of a bigger GOP push to ensure what they are depicting as election integrity. Last week, hundreds of people protested in front of the Michigan Capitol, calling for a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election. Meanwhile, Democrats say the bills are a recourse to appease voters after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has promised to veto any bills that she believes suppress voting rights.

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