“Some 1,500 people voted under dead people’s and prisoners’ names from 2008-11, according to Michigan’s auditor general. Many might be clerical errors, but this illustrates the need to ensure accurate voter rolls.” Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson wrote this in a July 2 Times-Herald column, and she lied. Johnson is a member of a fifteen-state consortium of right-wing elections officials that’s hellbent on purging voters. And her dishonest jousting in Michigan this week offers a window into how that consortium works—playing fast and loose with facts in order to create the impression of a problem that would justify their hardline solutions, and flouting the law themselves when necessary. Johnson’s Monday column was a last-ditch effort to persuade Governor Rick Snyder to sign into law herSecure and Fair Elections (SAFE) initiative, including the bills HB 5061 and SB 803, which respectively would force voters to reaffirm their citizenship before receiving a ballot and would require photo ID for absentee voting. Another bill, SB 754, would put onerous restrictions on third-party registration organizations, much like a Florida law that was recently blocked by a federal judge. On Tuesday, Governor Snyder vetoed those three bills, but preserved the rest of Johnson’s SAFE package. Despite Johnson’s constant refrain on dead people voting, her own Bureau of Elections has already established that there was no actual voter fraud in the auditor general’s report she referenced in her July 2 column.
While it’s true that the auditor general initially found close to 1,500 cases in which a dead or imprisoned person appeared to vote, the Department of State’s Bureau of Elections (BOE) said the auditor general was mistaken on all 1,500 counts (pdf; page 17). The auditor general reports that BOE informed investigators “that in every instance where it appears a deceased person or incarcerated person voted and local records were available, a clerical error was established as the reason for the situation. In addition, the Department [BOE] informed [the auditor general] that in some cases, voters submitted absent voter ballots shortly before they died. The Department informed us that the examples provided did not result in a single verified case that an ineligible person voted.” (My emphasis.)
Despite this, Johnson is determined to press forward with her original intentions. And regardless of Governor Snyder’s veto of the citizenship reaffirmation bill, Johnson said she will require that ballot application forms have a citizenship checkbox anyway. Johnson will also continue this work through membership in the Interstate Cross Check Project. The architect of that consortium is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who gained notoriety when he led a national movement to copycat Arizona’s immigrant profiling law. The consortium allows member states to share voter registration information in a database to find ineligible voters. Kansas has the most restrictive, active voter ID law in the nation. That law, which is also called the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, is the model for what Kobach would like to see happen around the country, where state cabinet officials are sent on missions looking for dead people, dogs and “illegals” attempting to vote. The project claims it has discovered people who are registered in multiple states, and who may have even voted in multiple states during one election.