Senate Elections Committee OKs signature verification bill

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson on Wednesday supported the panel’s approval of legislation to protect the state’s signature verification process.

“With the increased use of absentee voter ballots in the 2020 election and the likelihood of that volume continuing in the future, we should ensure proper signature verification steps are followed to protect the integrity of our elections,” said Johnson, who served as Michigan secretary of state from 2011 to 2018. “Unfortunately, Secretary Benson has proposed new rules that would essentially gut the entire signature verification process — which would ignore the law and potentially assist in fraudulent voting.”

Benson has proposed new administrative rules that would instruct clerks verifying signatures on absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications to begin with a “presumption that the voter’s signature is his or her genuine, valid signature” and that “if there are any redeeming qualities… the signature must be treated as valid.” The rules would also allow a clerk to consider hypothetical reasons why a voter’s signature might not match and choose to accept it even if it does not match the signature in voter registration records.

As approved by the committee, Senate Bill 308 would require the secretary of state to develop policies and procedures via the rulemaking process that establish an objective signature verification process to be used to train all county, city and township clerks.

It would also ban rules from including a presumption of validity of any signature being verified, requiring signatures to be accepted if they have “redeeming qualities” or considering hypothetical facts that could affect a signature.

“Senate Bill 308 would ensure proper election security safeguards are preserved and prevent a gross overreach of the rulemaking process that would make it easier to cheat,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “It’s regrettable that this reform is even necessary, but we have a secretary of state who seems incapable of following the law and ensuring voter signatures are verified.”

SB 308 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

###