During Michigan’s presidential primary in February, voters were required for the first time to affirm their U.S. citizenship when obtaining a ballot to vote. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she added the check-off on ballot applications to weed out legal immigrants who have been improperly — or inadvertently — registered to vote over the past two decades while obtaining a driver’s license. State election officials say they’ve received reports of a handful of noncitizens who are registered voters showing up at polls in Kent, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, Johnson said. Now she’s asking state lawmakers to make affirming U.S. citizenship a permanent step toward obtaining a ballot. Johnson has joined a nationwide effort to tighten up ballot box security and clean up voter rolls that sometimes contain duplicate registrations.
But Bob McCann, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said the legislation is the “proverbial solution in search of a problem” and could confuse older voters who aren’t used to the additional steps. “We’re really running the risk of disenfranchising a number of people who have no reason to have their citizenship questioned,” he said.
A House committee is holding a hearing today on the citizenship legislation and eight other election and voting-related bills Johnson and Republican lawmakers are seeking less than seven months before the presidential election. Even with the check-off added to the Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary ballot applications, it didn’t stop some from voting. At least six people who indicated on a ballot application they were not U.S. citizens were still given ballots in Oakland County, said County Clerk’s Office spokesman Dave Forsmark, who attributed the slip-up to confusion among poll workers about the new forms.