Johnson urges audit of mail-in votes

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson sent a letter Monday to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson urging her to conduct an audit of mail-in votes following reports that nonresidents returned prefilled absentee ballot applications sent to them by Benson for the August primary election.

“In one community alone, officials received four absentee ballot applications from people the state knew had surrendered their Michigan driver’s license to another state,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “People changed their license to another state, but they were still sent an invitation to vote in Michigan’s election by the secretary of state. That hurts integrity.

“Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballot applications were sent to individuals who are likely not eligible to vote. This mailing was done without legislative approval. It is the local clerks’ job to handle requests for absentee ballot applications to preserve integrity.”

Johnson has been critical of Benson’s decision to include individuals identified by the state as likely no longer qualified to vote in Michigan in her statewide mailing of prefilled absentee ballot applications in May. This includes individuals the state learned through the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a voluntary multistate crosscheck system, had moved to another state that participates in the program.

“We need to get on this before November,” Johnson said. “It disenfranchises voters who are following the rules when someone else might be voting for president in two different states. The secretary of state has created a hole in integrity with this mailing, and she needs to fix it.”

In her letter, Johnson asked the secretary of state to audit mail-in votes from individuals who had been flagged as surrendering their driver’s license to another state when they requested their absentee ballot for the primary election. She cited language added to the Michigan Constitution by Proposal 3 in 2018 granting citizens “the right to have the results of statewide elections audited … to ensure the accuracy and integrity of elections.”

“When you make it easy to cheat, it erodes confidence in our elections,” said Johnson. “The secretary of state needs to take steps to assure people that results accurately reflect the will of Michigan voters. That’s how we can all move forward together after November.”

When Johnson was secretary of state she worked with the Legislature to pass a law in 2012 allowing her office to conduct postelection audits for the first time. Johnson requested an update from Benson on how the department would address her concerns no later than Sept. 1.

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