Senate committee approves voter ID reforms

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson on Wednesday supported sending three bills strengthening ID requirements for voting to the full Senate.

“There is strong bipartisan support for requiring voters to use ID to vote,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “Ensuring the integrity of our elections is critical to a healthy democracy and requiring voters verify their identity with ID is the best way to protect the ‘one person, one vote’ standard.”

A March 2021 Rasmussen survey found that 75% of likely U.S. voters believe voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote.

Johnson said changes made by Proposal 3 of 2018 made Michigan’s system more vulnerable.

“Before Proposal 3, people had to be seen in person at least once, either when they registered to vote or when they voted for the first time. Now, someone can register and vote by mail without ever being seen,” Johnson said. “People can also show up on Election Day and register and vote immediately without showing ID. There is no real-time system for us to check if they are eligible to vote or if they have already voted in another location.”

A substitute adopted by Johnson’s committee for Senate Bill 285 would require anyone applying for an absentee ballot to verify their identity by providing their Michigan driver’s license number, Michigan personal ID card number or the last four digits of their Social Security number; or an individual could present their identification in person to their local clerk or include a copy of their driver’s license or state ID with their application.

“We changed the bill in committee to make it much more convenient for voters,” Johnson said. “Someone applying for an absentee ballot no longer needs to figure out how to make a photocopy of their ID. The voter can just write down their driver’s license or state ID number, or the last four digits of their social security number, on their absentee ballot application. We looked at what other states, such as Ohio, have done.”

Michigan already provides a free state identification card to many groups of citizens, including those who are age 65 or older, legally blind, a veteran, homeless, or receiving state aid.

“With the increase in absentee voting following Proposal 3, I think it is important we have the same standards for absentee voters that we have for in-person voters who are already asked to present their identification when voting,” Johnson said. “The vast majority of Michigan residents already have an ID and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has said it is a priority for him to find new ways that make it even easier for someone to get an ID if they need one.

“That will help people on many fronts, not just voting. You need an ID for so many things from buying a home to opening a bank account to getting on a plane or even buying a fishing license.”

The two other bills reported by the committee deal with in-person voting. SB 303 would require voters to show proper identification when voting in person. SB 304 would allow a voter who shows up in-person without proper identification to cast a provisional ballot and return to their local clerk within six days after the election to verify their identity so that their vote can be counted.

###