Michigan GOP launching ballot drive to tighten state's voting and election laws

Republicans on Monday launched a ballot drive to tighten Michigan's voting and election laws, backing a maneuver that would let GOP lawmakers enact the changes without Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's signature.

The step, which had been signaled for months, was welcomed by Republicans and decried by Democrats and voting-rights advocates. The Democratic governor had vowed to veto similar bills pending in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Secure MI Vote will need to collect roughly 343,000 valid voter signatures within six months of starting to circulate petitions.

The initiative would require voters to submit photo identification, eliminating an option that lets those without one submit an affidavit and vote. Instead, they would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity within six days after the election for it to count.

The measure also would add an ID component to absentee ballot applications, requiring that voters submit their driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Nearly 3.3 million people, a record, voted absentee last November. Voters currently seeking an absentee ballot by mail must sign the application, and the signature is matched to the voter file.

The initiative also would prohibit the secretary of state and local clerks from sending applications to people who did not request them.

Jamie Roe, spokesman for Secure MI Vote, said voters "across the political spectrum" questioned the integrity of the 2016 and 2020 election results.

"The success of this initiative will make it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and restore confidence in the electoral system for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike," he said in a statement.

Joe Biden won Michigan by about 155,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points.

While former President Trump has baselessly alleged widespread election fraud in Michigan and other states, his own attorney general found no evidence of it. His allegations also have been dismissed by a succession of judges and refuted by state election officials, an arm of his own administration’s Homeland Security Department and Republicans in the state Senate.

The Michigan Democratic Party and other groups accused the GOP of trying to confuse voters and perpetuating Trump's lies with the ballot drive.

"They want fewer people to vote because they just discovered what we have always known, when people vote, Democrats win. That is what this ballot proposal is all about, creating barriers to voting so fewer people have access to the polls," said chair Lavora Barnes.

She noted that two-thirds of Michigan voters in 2018 passed a constitutional amendment expanding voting rights.