A guest post by author Patrice Johnson
Last night under the cloak of darkness, the Michigan Legislature, led by a Republican majority and GOP election committee chairs, passed four bills containing serious threats to election integrity. Some of these bills popped onto the docket with 24 hours’ notice. Others awoke from dormancy after hearings earlier in the year and materialized on the agenda with barely any notice at all.
House Election Committee Chair Rep. Ann BOLLIN (R-Brighton Township) reported that a deal has been struck allowing two-day absentee ballot pre-processing in exchange for the passage of legislation to remove dead voters on file, increase security measures for ballot drop boxes, expand polling locations and allow an electronic ballot return for overseas military members.
With 41 days remaining before the Nov. 8 general election, Bollin announced to members of the press during Wednesday’s session that she’s “happy to say that both sides were able to come together” and allow two-day absentee ballot pre-processing, which she called “another tool in the toolbox for clerks.” Bollin: House To Strike Deal On Absentee Ballot Pre-Processing, More Election Security
“How about a ‘tool in the toolbox’ for voters?” asked Christine McGoron, Chair of Pure Integrity Michigan Elections’ Citizenship Committee. “How about making better laws that ensure that our votes are being counted accurately, that only US citizens are voting, that our personal information is not farmed out and used by outside entities, that foreign countries have no part in our voting process, like with voting machines?”
Considering that Gov. Whitmer has vetoed more bills each year than any governor since 1953 and considering that most of the bills she tanked had bipartisan support, why is she willing to sign these golden four? Just asking.
Despite the powdered-sugar talking points, all four bills appear to open giant doughnut holes to those seeking to abuse the state’s election processes. Last spring, Pure Integrity Michigan Elections testified and submitted written statements in opposition to bills 6071, 311, and 008. The group offered to support 4491 if amendments were made. They were not.
1. Absentee ballot pre-processing
“House Bill 6071 is a disaster,” wrote Lou Avallone, PIME’s Legislative Committee expert. “It allows for absentee ballot pre-processing on Sunday and Monday. It is a waste of taxpayer money to support these operations. Despite the constant propaganda, absentee ballots take less time than in-person ballots to process.” He noted that all precincts have their own teams and no precinct exceeds 2,999 registered voters. “Detroit averages about 1,000 registered voters per precinct,” he said.
Therefore, the only additional burden that arises from absentee ballots, he said, falls on clerks prior to election day. “Clerks must complete the signature verification and update the QVF to reflect the receipt of the ballots. But this has nothing to do with the processing of ballots by election inspectors.”
“Seriously?” former state Senator Patrick Colbeck wrote to Elections Chair Rep Bollin. “We are giving them two days of vote-tally recon[naisance] plus internet-based voting in exchange for them following the law?
“How about they remove dead voters without giving them two days of pre-processing? How about getting rid of AV Counting Boards altogether and forcing a reconciliation of the voters and ballots at the precinct level?
“Why are you enabling them to get away with election fraud yet again?
“In case you can’t tell, VERY disappointed….”
“If the legislature wanted to solve the real problem, it would facilitate a temporary increase in clerk staffing on election day to accomplish the signature matching of ‘late arrival’ ballots,” Avallone said. “Even worse, this bill dilutes the oversight capability of volunteer election challengers. Instead of needing to cover election day, they must now spread the resources over three days.”
The bill also allows for some flexibility in using large buildings as ‘combined precinct’ polling places. “Although they are generally not a good idea, their use was already allowed,” he said.
The legislation empowers county clerks to initiate the removal of deceased voters from the QVF instead of placing the burden only on the local clerks.
Avallone suspects the removal of deceased voters was unlikely the hold-up. “The issue, per the PILF lawsuit, is that the state is not doing an adequate job identifying deceased voters in the first place, not that it takes too long to remove them from the QVF once they are recognized as deceased.” PILF stands for Public Interest Legal Foundation. which is currently suing Secretary of State Benson for refusing to remove 26,000 verified deceased voters.
Avallone called bill 6071 “Mere virtue signaling.”
Military voting? Not so much.
Bills 311 and 008, touted as helping overseas military personnel vote by allowing them to vote electronically, passed with overwhelming support. Too bad only about a third (37%) of these overseas voters are military. Two-thirds of these overseas voters are actually civilians, claiming to be U.S. citizens!
They’re called UOCAVA voters, short for Uniformed Overseas and Citizens Overseas Voting Act.
Plus, it appears no one verifies citizenship status.
According to VerityVote, “Certain absentee voting privileges, which had previously been reserved for the military, were expanded to include US citizens living abroad, even those who have never lived in the United States. Federal laws have created serious vulnerabilities through the use of email and electronic voting and unverified registration of non-military overseas persons. The result is that 63% of the voters claiming UOCAVA privileges were allegedly non-military overseas citizens.”
“In May 2020, the FBI, CISA, EAC, and NISC described this as a ‘high-risk process’ that is susceptible to fraud.” Consider this: In 2020, counter to Americans flocking home due to COVID, the number of primarily civilian UOCAVA ballots skyrocketed upward from 2016’s numbers by 268,000.
A peculiar discrepancy
The Election Administration Commission tracked a total of 573,000 non-military UOCAVA voters. But the Dept of Defense, which administers UOCAVA, underreported to Congress the non-military voters by an additional 349,000.
In other words, Michigan’s well-meaning legislators appear to have been snookered.
In addition to opening the floodgates to noncitizen overseas voting, Avallone fears the adoption of the bill will “pave the way for eventual abuse in the return of electronic ballots. It seems to require access to a Department of Defense secure identification, but I am not sure how that applies to the merchant marines and the other non-military ‘corps.’
Fortunately, this new system is slated to take effect in 2024.
4. Drop boxes
Bill 4491 deals with the chain of custody regarding absentee ballot drop boxes. Notably, it requires video monitoring only on the ones ordered and installed after Oct. 1, 2020. “It does require clerks to keep records of absentee ballots as they are removed from drop boxes,” Avallone said. “But it provides no consequences for records that are not kept.” Neither does 4491 require the information to be easily accessible to the public.
No wonder the Democrat governor is expected to sign all four bills.
Patrice Johnson is chair of Michigan Fair Elections and Pure Integrity Michigan Elections. Johnson has founded four successful technology companies and holds a master’s degree in English Literature from Michigan State University.