GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Both Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives have introduced bills that would make it harder for any future lawmakers to conspire to rig an election in the future in the same way Rep. Roy Schmidt changed parties.
This all stems from the Kent County prosecutor's report that showed Representative Roy Schmidt along with several others, including House Speaker Jase Bolger, conspired to have Schmidt switch parties at the last minute and at the same time hire a 22 year-old college student to lie about living in the district and file to run as a Democrat and then drop out.
The move, ultimately guaranteed Schmidt would run as a Republican, unopposed on the ballot, in the November election.
"Even though Speaker Bolger was found to not have broken any laws he did break the one thing that is most important to the public and that is the public trust. The people of Michigan expect their leaders to not only be decent and hard working but honest. They don't want politicians who try to cheat people out of a fair election. No matter what party they are from people expect there to be a basic threshold of fairness in the elections process," said State Representative Brandon Dillion, a Democrat.
Thursday, Dillon, joined by 76th District House Democratic write in candidate Winnie Brinks, announced plans to clean up Michigan's election laws. He says the state needs stronger legislation to prevent political game playing and bring ethics and accountability to the election process.
"If we keep sending the message to the public that it is ok to allow these ethics violations to slide there will will be continued lack of confidence in the legislature. There is a reason the legislature has an 11% approval rating. The actions of Representative Bolger and Representative Schmidt will put that down to 0% pretty soon," Dillon said. "Public officials should have a higher standard than not just breaking the law and especially a leader of an institution like the House of Representatives."
Proposed legislation, if passed, would increase fines and penalties for fraud and filing perjurious affidavits for both the candidate and anyone helping the candidate; require candidates to live in the district for 60 days prior to running for office; return campaign contributions following a party switch; require transparency in fund raising following a party switch; require candidates to file in person and incumbents to file one week earlier and allow the opposing party at least a 14 day window to find a replacement if a candidate switches parties at the last minute.
Dillon says this issue is of the highest importance and believes the legislature can get new legislation in place by August if lawmakers work together.