Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she hopes to complete her proposed streamlining of the state’s election system this spring, in time for this year’s primary and general elections. Johnson said the 12 bills in her “Secure and Fair Elections,” or SAFE Initiative will clean up obsolete voter lists, allow more voters to use absentee ballots, tighten up registration procedures and close loopholes in the state’s photo ID requirement for voters.
As the state’s chief elections official, Johnson also is hoping to win passage of new campaign finance laws that require advance registration to prevent political “stealth efforts” such as the fake “Tea Party” created in 2010.
She also is calling for improved training procedures for voter registration groups and tighter post-election audit procedures. Six of the bills have already been reported out of state Senate committees while another six will be heard in state House committees in coming weeks, Johnson said during a visit to Grand Rapids Thursday.
Her toughest legislative hurdle will be to get “no reason” absentee voting adopted, Johnson said. Voters who are not disabled or under age 60 must currently give a reason for not voting on Election Day. Johnson’s proposal would allow any registered voter to get an absentee ballot provided they have a photo ID or are willing to sign an affidavit stating they don’t have a photo ID – the same requirement voters face when they vote in person.
To avoid possible manipulation of absentee ballots, Johnson said her plan calls for absentee ballots to be counted on election night along with other ballots.
Cleaning up the voter registration rolls may be the most difficult task, Johnson said, citing a 2008 Pew Center study that indicated 102.54 percent of Michigan adults were registered to vote.