LANSING, Mich. — This week the Michigan legislature approved a bill that would impose new restrictions on voting and voter registration, despite the fact that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she will veto any legislation that makes it harder to vote.
Though there has been no evidence of significant fraud in the 2020 election, a spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party says the group is focused on implementing additional safeguards in the name of election integrity.
“Our party is fully focused on 2022, and I think the best possible way that our activists in our movement, our members can really work to secure our elections is by, one, electing a new Republican governor and going down the line to electing a new secretary of state that will make it again easier to vote for Michiganders and impossible to cheat," said Gus Portela who serves as the communications director for the Michigan Republican Party.
The bill, Senate Bill 303 would impose new ID requirements for Michigan voters, ban election officials from mailing absentee ballot applications unless a voter already requested one and restrict election funding.
“We have a really secure, robust election system so adding additional obstacles really doesn’t add value," said Brian P. Jackson, Lansing's chief deputy city clerk. "When we’ve done all this auditing and review of our elections and everything showing that our elections are safe and secure for it, so then you wonder what other reason why they’re adding obstacles to that.”
Even if the governor vetoes the bill there is an ongoing effort from the Secure MI Vote Campaign to put similar measures in front of the people through a ballot initiative. Organizers have begun collecting signatures.
If they're successful, it would give Republicans a way to bypass Whitmer's veto. Michigan law says that, if lawmakers adopt legislation initiated by residents, the governor can't veto it.
Republican leaders are counting on the fact that Whitmer will veto so called election integrity legislation as they look toward the 2022 gubernatorial race.
"Look, our party is fully fully invested in what's going to happen in 2022 and making sure that we elect more Republicans at every single level," Portela said.
State Rep. Sarah Anthony calls the bills "a solution in search of a problem."
"The notion is that in order to vote, a person should have some level of identification, and I agree with that," she said. "But there are current mechanisms in place.”
Continuing to call into question the integrity of Michigan's elections, she says, is irresponsible.
"Because, quite honestly, it is poking holes at the integrity of our elections process," Anthony said. "You know, our Republican-led Senate had an oversight committee that basically reported that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the state of Michigan, and that should have been enough.”
Portela says it's "clear that the governor is more interested in playing partisan politics instead of working with the Legislature to protect and secure the integrity of our elections."
Bobby Leddy, Whitmer's press secretary, says that the governor has been "very clear that she will protect the will of Michigan voters, who overwhelmingly voted to increase access to the ballot box and absentee voting just a few years ago in 2018. Any legislation that seeks to make it harder to vote, attempts to undermine trust in our government, or attacks voting rights will see a swift veto from the governor.”
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