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Senate panel OKs Johnson’s election equipment security bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Ruth Johnson’s legislation to make sure Michigan’s electronic voting systems don’t use equipment or parts made by foreign companies deemed a national security risk by the U.S. government.

“As we work to preserve the integrity of our elections, we must ensure our voting machines are secure and protected from foreign influence and cybercriminals,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “As a former Michigan secretary of state and county clerk, I know that we must be proactive against potential security risks.

“Both the Trump and Biden administrations have recognized the increasing threat of foreign-made technology in official communications services — and this measure would enact similar restrictions for our electronic voting systems.”

In 2019, the Trump administration barred U.S. firms from using the Chinese technology company Huawei’s technology or providing technology to the company, deeming it a national security risk.

President Biden signed the Secure Equipment Act in 2021, requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish rules stating it will no longer approve any authorization for equipment on the list of covered communications equipment or services — meaning equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and three other Chinese companies cannot be used in U.S. telecom networks.

Senate Bill 884 would apply the same standards in the federal Secure Equipment Act to all new electronic voting machines purchased or approved by election officials in Michigan.

The bill prohibits any electronic voting system purchased in Michigan on or after July 1, 2022 to include any parts or equipment produced or provided by a company with any communications equipment or services determined to represent a national security concern by the FCC. The Board of State Canvassers would also be prohibited from approving such systems for use.

SB 884 would not prohibit the repair, maintenance or acquisition of parts for the proper operation of existing systems acquired and approved prior to July 1, 2022.

The committee also approved SB 788 to fix a campaign finance loophole taken advantage of by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year to fundraise beyond Michigan’s contribution limits. It would require an officeholder facing an approved recall petition to place money raised for a recall election into a separate specified account and return any unspent funds to donors.

SBs 788 and 884 now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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