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‘We’re not going to be silent:’ Sec. Benson opposes Senate voting bills

Senate republicans, others testify in support of package of 39 bills meant to make elections ‘safe and secure,’ they say.
Posted at 11:57 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 00:13:29-04

LANSING, Mich. — A few weeks ago, Michigan republican senators introduced a package of 39 bills that they said were about election reform and would reduce cheating and fraud. Wednesday afternoon, a few republican lawmakers and others testified in support of them during an Elections Committee hearing.

One of the main issues many brought up were regarding voter rolls.

“When somebody says 'we use a Qualified Voter File,' it’s simply full of people granted who are not qualified,” said Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson. “When I was Secretary of State, we removed over 1.1 million people out of 7.3 [million] because they had moved or died. There accidentally was 3,325 non-citizens on it and some underage, so cleaning up our Qualified Voter File should be one of the most important jobs.”

Johnson said ‘cleaning up’ the QVF would make future elections safe and secure.

Maya Noronha of the nonpartisan Opportunity Solutions Project agreed. She testified in support of Senate Bills 281, which she said will make sure that Michigan cleans its voter rolls.

“Various sources indicate Michigan voter rolls were outdated, inaccurate and needed to be cleaned,” Noronha said who testified via Zoom. “First in 2019, the Michigan Auditor General identified 2,212 names in the Michigan Qualified Voter file that were recorded as having voted more than once in an election. The auditor general also stated that the Department of State did not have procedures to protect, follow up and detect integrity discrepancies for 2,472 records.”

Noronha went on to say that 300,000 people on the voter rolls hadn’t voted in the past 20 years. She added that SB 281 would lead to transparency, making sure that Michigan follows federal law and enables the legislature to ‘conduct effective oversight.’

“This bill has nothing to do with the 2020 election,” said Matt Hall, R-District 63. “It’s solely about this audit from the Auditor General that clearly states that there are hundreds of people on our voter rolls who are 122 years or older, and you guys know the oldest living person not long ago died in Battle Creek near me, 114.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson ‘condemned the efforts of the state legislator's during a virtual press conference, held a few hours before Wednesday's hearing. She said due to federal law they canceled 175,000 registrations and will be placing thousands more on a countdown list.

She called the stack of bills an ‘affront to democracy' and that they're about voter suppression.

“Today my office is also releasing an analysis of the entire package of the proposed 39 pieces of legislation, which details the way each one harms our election system or restricts Michigan citizens hard-fought freedom to vote,” Benson said. “But, here are some highlights. One of the success stories of 2020 was not just that Michigan voters participated in record numbers but that they had options on how to cast their ballot. Whether they opted to receive or return their ballot prior to Election Day or on Election Day itself, they had choices.”

She said that 3,300,000 voters in the state chose to vote absentee and did so successfully due to the election infrastructure and without ‘widespread fraud or disenfranchisement.’ She called it an accomplishment but stated that the republicans' bills would prevent this from happening again.

“Senate Bill 285 only allows people to vote by mail if they submit a photocopy of their ID with their application, meaning only those voters who both have access to a copy machine and are willing to open themselves up to the very real risk of identity theft are able to request to vote by mail,” Benson continued. “This includes senior citizens or military and overseas voters who’ve been voting but mail under our current secure procedures for decades without problems.”

Benson addressed other bills, including one that bans drop boxes on Election Day, another that shortens pre-processing time for absentee ballots, and one that requires counting and tabulation to stop by noon the next day.

She said there’s 11 other bills that “serve as a deceitful distraction or window-dressing,” designed to make it look like the bills make it easier to vote. However, they don't.

Benson described the republican effort, which she said was a part of a national movement to change democracy, as 'un-American' and an ‘abdication' of their oaths to serve people in the state.

“You don’t serve the people of this state by silencing their voices. Instead, you embarrass all of us,” Benson said. “So, what comes next? I and the majority of leaders of various sectors throughout our state will continue to speak the truth to our voters and other leaders about the pernicious realities of this legislation. We’re not going to be silent in light of this attempt to undo the people’s will.”