Michigan House passes modest election reform legislation

The legislation passed by a 77-31 margin prohibits internet connection of electronic voting systems and electronic poll books on Election days, which would codify current practice into law.

Updated: August 17, 2021 - 10:57pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The GOP-led Michigan House approved what Republicans call voter reform but Democrats decry as part of the “Big Lie.”

House Bill 4838 passed by a vote of 77-31. The bill aims to prohibit internet connection of electronic voting systems and electronic poll books on Election days, which would codify current practice into law.

Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, said this bill neither solves problems nor helps Michiganders.

“This bill changes nothing,” Koleszar said in a floor speech, who claims it “gives credence to already-debunked conspiracy theories” championed by attorney Matt DePerno, who’s unsuccessfully sued to overturn the 2020 election.

Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, who authored a Senate elections report finding no widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, supported the bill. He said, if passed, the bill, “[L]imits the potential for security issues.”

The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks supports the bill.

The bill follows baseless accusations from DePerno and former Sen. Patrick Colbeck that election machines connected to the internet allowed the hacking of the 2020 election in Michigan.

HB 4837, passed on a 75-33 vote, aims to prohibit access to the Qualified Voter File by organizations and non-accredited election officials.

HB 4840 passed on a vote of 80-21. It aims to extend the record retention period for election ballots and provide a record retention period for electronic poll book software.

“One of the best ways to give voters confidence in elections is to maintain ballots and other records – securely and for a reasonable length of time,” Rep. Ken Borton, R-Gaylord, said in a statement. “My plan expands retention of certain election records, standardizing requirements in the process. Good record-keeping enables transparency and accountability to keep elections secure for Michigan voters."

The Michigan Association of County Clerks opposed the bill.

State or local election ballots must be retained for 30 days after certification. HB 4840 aims to require election officials to retain ballots for federal or state elections for at least 22 months afterward. Election returns preserved by law include poll lists, tally sheets, and absent voter records. The plan attempts to add a new provision requiring flash drives used for electronic poll books to be preserved at least 30 days after certification of an election barring a recount petition.

The bills move to the Senate.