LANSING, Mich. — Discussion over new voting laws continues at the Michigan State Capitol this week as lawmakers dispute wide ranging restrictions on absentee ballots, drop boxes and vote counting.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans offered up a loosened version of legislation that would have banned the use of absentee ballot drop boxes on Election Day. Instead, Republicans proposed closing the drop boxes at 5 p.m., three hours before the polls close.
The proposed change was announced during the third meeting of the Senate Elections Committee, which is considering a bundle of 39 bills on voting and the elections.
“This Republican package of bills seeks to solve some problem of phantom fraud that still they have no proof exists,” said state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield. “They actually conducted investigative hearings right after the election so if Senate Republicans wanted to find a claim of fraud in our election that would propel these bills, they had every opportunity to do so.”
The Michigan GOP argued that there were legitimate concerns from Michigan voters over the security of last year’s election results.
“Millions and millions of Americans express their concerns over the security of the 2020 elections, and it's incumbent on our elected officials to respond to these concerns and to find out exactly what happened if anything,” said Ted Goodman, a spokesman for the Michigan GOP. “The legislature is still working and making tweaks to the legislation so I wouldn’t call this a final product.”
Election audits have found no evidence of significant fraud.
Opponents of the package of bills were not appeased by the proposal to open drop boxes until 5 p.m. on Election Day.
“I don’t think we should be limiting the amount of time to the ballot box,” said state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing. “The deadline to vote is 8 p.m. and so I don’t see why there’s any limitation on someone turning in an absentee ballot. What I will say is that what [Republicans] are claiming, that they want to make counting ballots faster but they’re the ones that made counting ballots difficult.”
Moss said the package of bills will make it more difficult for Michiganders to vote.
“I think that the problem they’re trying to resolve is they don’t like the election result from November of 2020, and they’re trying to make it harder for different communities in the state to vote because they don’t like how they voted,” he said.
Opponents of the legislation have voiced concerns that the new laws will lead to decreased voter turnout.
The impact of the bills "depends on what passes,” said Corwin Smidt, a Michigan State University political science professor who studies campaign politics and Michigan elections. “I think turnout is only marginally affected by these measures. However, what the issues will be is that it creates differential impacts.”
Some people have a harder time voting than others, he said, and that can have an impact, particularly on close races.
“That will create opportunities for people to think that the laws are [unfair] or the laws target certain communities versus others,” he said.
The state Senate has yet to vote on these bills. Discussion is expected to continue next week.
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