Michigan Republicans push for sweeping election overhaul

Michigan Republicans are attempting an end-run around Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerMichigan orders 'all-hands-on-deck' response to water crisis Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Michigan leaves majority-Black city with lead-contaminated taps for three years Whitmer vetoes bill on bird feeding over deer fears MORE (D) to pass a sweeping set of election reform measures in the wake of President BidenJoe BidenJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted MORE’s victory over former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE in the critical swing state.

A group calling itself Secure MI Vote has filed papers with the secretary of state’s office that would put before the legislature a series of new proposals changing the way the state runs elections, many of which have already passed other Republican-controlled states.

Among the measures: New voter identification requirements, a prohibition on the private financing of election administration, and additional steps that voters casting absentee ballots would have to take in order to make sure their ballots count.

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One of the petitions would also prohibit state and local election officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who did not ask for them. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) sent applications to all Michigan voters in the run-up to the 2020 elections, held in the midst of a global pandemic.

The State Board of Canvassers now has until Oct. 1 to approve or reject the twin petitions submitted by Secure MI Vote. If the petitions are approved, the group would need to gather 340,047 valid signatures — or about 4.2 percent of the total number of registered voters in Michigan — to put the measures before the legislature.

Several of those measures were included in legislation that Whitmer has already threatened to veto.

But because of a quirk in Michigan law, the citizen petition would allow the Republican-controlled legislature to pass the bills without needing Whitmer’s signature.

Supporters of the new proposal echoed Republicans in states like Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona, who have claimed that new measures restricting absentee voting or round-the-clock voting centers are meant to crack down on illegal voting, for which there is no evidence.

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“You’ve had, in the last two presidential elections in particular, people from both sides questioning the election,” Jamie Roe, a spokesman for Secure MI Vote, told The Hill. “You’ve had people from both sides that have lost confidence.”

“The reforms that we’re putting forward in the Secure My Vote proposal are designed to restore that confidence by passing reforms that are supported broadly by both sides of the aisle,” he said.

Pro-democracy organizations and Democratic officials said the measures were meant to cut down on access to the ballot after an election Biden won handily. They accused Republicans of buying into Trump’s lies about the election results.

“Democracy works best when voters have choices and options to cast their ballots securely. No matter what the sponsors of the petition say, this petition has nothing to do with election integrity and everything to do with perpetuating the Big Lie,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of the Michigan-based group Voters Not Politicians. “If their scheme to circumvent the voters succeeds, it will cut off access to the ballot for eligible voters.”

Biden carried Michigan’s 16 electoral votes by more than 150,000 votes in 2020, a margin of almost 3 percentage points, far larger than the 11,000-vote margin by which Trump carried the state in 2016 over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE.