Find this op-ed in the Detroit News
Opinion: Michigan lawmakers are upholding the rights of voters
By: Stephanie Kreuz
Elections are the bedrock of our republic, and voter confidence in their integrity is critical. While there are a number of key fronts on which Michigan should take action to ensure the security of its elections, verifying the identity of every voter is simply a common-sense first step.
Unfortunately, under current Michigan law, voters do not have to prove their identity to vote. Any voter can simply sign an affidavit asserting that they are who they claim to be. Fraud can have real consequences for election outcomes. In 2016, for example, a Missouri Democratic state House primary election was overturned due to fraud, and forced a special election to be held.
The Michigan House and Senate have now passed versions of legislation requiring every person voting at the polls to present a photo ID. These bills shouldn’t be controversial: Recent polling by the Detroit Regional Chamber shows that 80% of Michigan residents support requiring a government-issued ID to vote. And Strategic National polling shows that a wide majority of Michigan residents reject the false claim that requiring voter ID at the polls is discriminatory.
Current law already provides free photo ID for certain individuals, such as those over 65, veterans, homeless or those receiving state aid. The new reforms passed by the House in HB 5007 would streamline this policy, and make a state ID card free for any Michigan citizen.
The security of our ballots shouldn’t be a partisan issue. As the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, said in 2005: “The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”
Additionally, the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at data from 2008–18 and found that photo ID laws have no significant negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any subgroup defined by age, gender, race or party affiliation.
These provisions are an excellent start to strengthening Michigan’s elections. Further, the House recently amended SB 303 to require signatures be made available in the electronic poll book to allow signature matching in addition to requiring photo ID. Authenticating signatures serves as a key safeguard to verifying a voter’s identity — the Senate should approve these amendments.
The Legislature also should act to rein in renegade state executives. The secretary of state in October instructed clerks to presume signatures are valid, undercutting the security of the process. The State Court of Claims later ruled this guidance invalid, stating, "The presumption is found nowhere in state law." To prevent a similar situation in the future, the House has passed HB 4845, which would require the secretary of state to create a process for matching and verifying signatures, and ensure clerks are properly trained on matching procedures.
Next, the House should take up SB 285, and ensure that absentee ballots be treated with the same level of security as in-person voting. Requirements to present photo identification should also apply when applying for an absentee ballot, whether by driver’s license number or a photocopy of identification.
Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, rightly pointed out in the May 26 Senate Elections Committee hearing that convicted cases of fraud only reflect those who were able to be caught and prosecuted. Strong laws serve not only as a deterrent to those who would seek to defraud our electoral system, but also to bring to justice those who would attempt it.
The Legislature should continue passing bills to secure Michigan’s elections, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should sign these bills into law when they arrive on her desk.
Michigan citizens agree: Make it easy to vote, and hard to cheat.
Stephanie Kreuz is regional manager and senior adviser for Heritage Action for America for the Midwest.