Senate OKs voter ID reform, set to pass free state ID bill

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson on Wednesday supported Senate approval of legislation to strengthen ID requirements for voting. The Senate is also set to approve a measure to make it easier for residents to get a free state personal identification card.

“As I have said before, there is strong bipartisan support among Michigan voters to have people verify their identity with an ID when voting to protect the integrity of our elections,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “We must remain vigilant to protect the voice of the people. Ensuring the security of our elections is vital to our democracy, and this legislation will help to fix vulnerabilities which were created by Proposal 3 of 2018.”

A statewide poll from the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Glengariff Group in May 2021 showed that 79.7% of Michigan registered voters support requiring “every voter coming to the polls present a government-issued identification to cast their ballot.” That included 100% of strong Republicans, 83.4% of Independents, and 58.4% of strong Democrats.

Senate Bill 303 would require voters to show proper identification when voting in person and require absentee voters to write their Michigan driver’s license number or state ID card number on their absentee ballot application to verify their identity. Under the bill, voters could also write the last four digits of their social security number on their application or present their ID to their clerk to get an absentee ballot.

Johnson said changes made by Proposal 3 of 2018 made Michigan’s system more vulnerable, such as allowing people to register and vote without ever being seen in-person and enabling same-day registration and voting despite having no real-time system to check if someone is eligible or has voted in multiple places.

“Applying similar standards for absentee voters that we have for in-person voters will protect the vote of every Michigan citizen and help to restore public confidence in our elections,” Johnson said. “To protect everyone’s right to vote, we also will be passing legislation that will make state IDs free of charge — which will help people on many fronts, not just voting.”

SB 303 would also prohibit the use of third-party money for elections administration in Michigan and ban the secretary of state or other government officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters.

“Last year, the secretary of state spent over half of her office’s federal CARES Act dollars — that were supposed to be used to assist clerks with COVID-related expenses — to instead send out unsolicited mailings, including millions of unsolicited absentee ballot applications,” Johnson said. “The secretary and her elections director even admitted in committee they purposely included people in the mailing who they had received notice had surrendered their driver’s license to another state and were likely no longer Michigan residents.”

On Thursday, the Senate is set to pass two additional measures.

House Bill 5007 would make getting or renewing an official state personal identification card free of charge to Michigan residents.

SB 304 would allow in-person voters without proper identification and absentee voters who fail to fill in the identifying information 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.

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