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Proposal 2 Implementation Bills Clear Both Chambers

June 21, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

Local clerks would need to monitor their drop boxes with video cameras by 2026, under an amendment to the Proposal 2 implementation bills that passed the House and Senate Wednesday.

The concession to skeptical Republicans didn’t ease concerns enough to earn a lot of minority party support outside of Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp.) and Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), but it added to majority Democrats’ case that they reached across the aisle to find consensus on a contentious issue.

“I’m very, very proud to have led on this package and see the end result stripped of partisanship to allow Michigan voters more options to cast their ballots,” said Senate Elections Committee Chair Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield).

The House and Senate each passed eight identical bills designed to give clerks guidance on how nine days of early voting, automatic absentee ballot lists and ballot drop box administration should work.

Democrats heralded the bills as expanding options for voters looking to express their right to pick their public officials. Republicans criticized the package in its entirety for going further than the ballot initiative necessitated by giving the Secretary of State allegedly unprecedented power without any checks or balances.

Republicans ended up voting for a bill that expands precinct sizes, but not much else.

Other elections-related bills, such as 16-year-old pre-registration, absentee ballot tracking legislation and moving the August primary election to June, were shelved for the time being. Next up is expected to be legislation that allows clerks to tally early votes as long as nobody gets a sneak peek at the running total.

In the House, House Elections Committee Chair Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) said the package is an opportunity to implement the will of Michigan voters who supported Proposal 2, which Rep. Carrie A. Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor) seconded.

“The right to vote is sacred,” Rheingans said, speaking about her experience collecting signatures for Proposal 22-2 last year, and her ability to serve as a sponsor on the package as a freshman this term.

“This package of bills will move us forward in the process of making voting much easier,” she said, adding that it also includes protections for voting rights.

But Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), a former Brighton Township clerk and previous Elections and Ethics Committee chair, criticized the package for going further than necessary.

Rep. Rachelle Smit (R-Shelbyville), who also spoke on the floor in opposition, called the bill “radical election reform” that isn’t necessary, “yet we are doing it anyway.”

She said the package gives enormous power to the Secretary of State with zero oversight, and added that the cost of funding the implementation will be a massive drain on local resources, especially for smaller municipalities.

Bollin added that the legislation was crafted in the dark, without the support of former clerks that sit on the House Elections Committee.

“Election law should not be partisan,” she said. “It should be principled.”

The package starting with HB 4695 and SB 367, which legislates early voting procedures, including establishing the nine days of early voting passed via Proposal 2 and outlining the duties of the Secretary of State to oversee voting.

It passed the House along partisan lines, 56-53, after two failed Republican amendments. One required election inspectors from differing political parties to be present for a resealing of a broken ballot container, and the other required municipalities to go beyond the nine days of early voting constitutionally required to pay for it.

It passed the Senate, 22-16, with McBroom and Huizenga voting yes.

Tsernoglou’s HB 4696 makes it a five-year felony for disclosing an election return from an early voting site before Election Day. That bill also passed 56-53.

In the Senate, it was McBroom’s SB 368 that passed, 30-8, with Sens. Joseph Bellino Jr. (R-Monroe), Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon), Kevin Daley (R-Lum), Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), Jonathan Lindsey (R-Brooklyn), Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), Lana Theis (R-Brighton) and Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) voting no.

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth)’s HB 4697, sets up requirements for absentee ballot drop boxes as passed via Proposal 2, including mandating one drop box per municipality and per 15,000 registered voters.

Boxes would also be state-funded and accessible 24 hours a day during the 40 days before an election under his bill.

A Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mount Clemens) floor amendment to the bill added a requirement that drop box locations require video monitoring, which Tsernoglou said wasn’t driven by Republican concerns. In the Senate, it was Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) who sponsored the amendment.

It was what our partners wanted, Mentzer said, including the Secretary of State.

With the addition of the Mentzer amendment, the bill passed, 56-53, after several additional Bollin floor amendments requiring municipalities to pay for extra drop boxes outside Proposal 2 requirements failed.

The aforementioned video camera amendment got 10 Republican yes votes in the Senate for SB 372, which passed 30-8. Sens. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), Bellino, Daley, Lauwers, Lindsey, Runestad, Theis and Victory voted no.

Rep. Kara Hope (D-Lansing)’s HB 4698, which allows for city IDs to be used to obtain a ballot, also passed by the same vote after some Republican amendments that attempted to require that educational IDs used for voting came from accredited institutions failed.

In the Senate, it was SB 373, which passed, 22-16, with McBroom and Huizenga voting yes.

Rep. Erin Byrnes (D-Dearborn) sponsored HB 4699, which creates the permanent absentee ballot list for local clerks, and received two technical Tsernoglou amendments. The bill passed, 56-53.

In the Senate, SB 369 passed, 30-8, with Bellino, Daley, Lauwers, Linsdsey, Runestad, Theis and Victory voting no.

Rheingans sponsored HB 4700, which included more direction on creating the permanent absentee voter list. In the Senate, SB 370 passed 21-17 with Huizenga voting yes.

Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor)’s HB 4701 updates sentencing guidelines for absentee ballot violations.

Both bills also passed, 56-53, with no attempted amendments.

In the Senate, SB 371 passed, 30-8, with Bellino, Daley, Lauwers, Lindsey, Runestad, Theis and Victory voting no.

The only elections bill to receive a single House Republican vote on Wednesday was Tsernoglou’s HB 4702, which increases the allowable precinct size and the maximum number of electors allowed in a precinct from 2,999 to 5,000.

The bill passed, 62-47, with Republican Reps. Joseph A. Aragona (R-Clinton Township), Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), Tom Kuhn (R-Troy), Alicia St. Germaine (R-Harrison Township), and Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills) voting yes. In the Senate, it passed, 32-6, with Bellino, Daley, Lauwers, Lindsey, Runestad and Theis voting no.

In his defense, McBroom said he didn’t vote for Proposal 2, but it passed and “it’s what we have to deal with.” He noted that clerks are struggling to figure out how the law is supposed to work and he supports giving them some guidance, which is what the bills do.

“While I have strong disagreements in how this should be done, these are the people who are in control of the Secretary of State and they have accepted a lot of input that I have made on these bills,” he said.

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