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Michigan Secretary of State calls GOP-led voting reform bills "anti-American"

Benson said some current laws could restrict the voting rights of Michigan citizens.
Credit: Governor's office

MICHIGAN, USA — During a virtual press conference Thursday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called on state leaders to speak out against a series of republican-led voting reform bills. 

The bills were introduced in the Michigan senate. One of the bills requires a photo copy of a drivers license to apply for an absentee ballot. Another would prevent prepaid postage on absentee ballots. Others include preventing voters from dropping ballots in drop-boxes on election day, and increase the number of people on canvassing boards. 

RELATED: GOP pushes dozens of bills aimed at election reform

While republicans claim these bills are aimed at preventing voter fraud, democrats feel otherwise. Benson said they go as far as limiting people's right to vote, and making it harder for absentee voting. 

"These proposals are based on the lies that sought to undermine the will of the voters in our democracy last year," said Benson. "And they should be seen for what they are: an extension of those same lies, seeking to continue to undermine the will of Michigan citizens."

She called the bills "anti-American," and not backed by data. 

Detroit's City Clerk, Janice Winfrey spoke at the conference. She said these bills, such as banning prepaid postage on return absentee envelopes, discriminates against low-income citizens. 

"These bills clearly want to restrict the voting rights of the people of Detroit and other like communities," said Winfrey. "And we're not going to stand for it. We fought too hard. We've worked too hard to ensure access to the ballot."

Benson said there is no data to suggest many of these bills would prevent voter fraud. Referring to the bill requiring a photo copy of an ID with an absentee ballot application, she said the current method uses a signature. That signature is then matched to the signature on record, and used to identify the voter. She even said this method could lead to more fraud, claiming it is more difficult to impersonate a voter and forge a signature, than create a fake ID. Plus, she said mailing the copy of the ID makes the citizen vulnerable for identify fraud. 

"The impact it will have is not to make our elections more secure, not to make absentee ballot process more secure," said Benson, "But to make voting by absentee harder. For elderly citizens, who now will have to find access to a copy machine in order to vote absentee, even though they may have been voting absentee and requesting to vote absentee in a different way for years. For our young voters, for college students, going to school outside of state. It will make it harder for them to vote and for their voices to be heard. That's it, that's the impact."

Republicans disagree with this claim. Ted Goodman, the communications director for the Michigan Republican Party said they are directed to make it easier to vote, but harder to cheat. He said the bills were drafted in response to concerns by Michiganders and Americans in the last few months. 

"We just want to ensure that folks are who they say they are when they're voting," said Goodman, "And that goes for everyone. You need photo ID for all sorts of things in this country. Something as important as voting, we don't see an issue with including it for voting as well."

When asked for a response to those claiming these bills will restrict voting laws, he said republicans in Lansing are open to working with anyone on this, regardless of partisan political persuasion. 

"That's just the Democrat Party's talking point these days," said Goodman, "You've approach the topic of election reform, and they instantly go to: Oh, this is voter suppression. A lot of times even painted as racist, when nothing could be further from the truth. Republicans in Michigan are dedicated to making it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

The Republican bills, if passed through the Michigan Senate, would eventually end up to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's desk. She would likely veto them, but Benson said that's the plan by republicans. She said republicans could then collect a certain amount of signatures to override the Governor's veto.

"They publicly admitted that their goal was to have these bills vetoed by the governor, who unlike them, was actually elected by a majority of all voters," said Benson, "So that they can solicit signatures from a small selection of their supporters, less than 7% of all Michigan voters, to override any gubernatorial veto, and use their gerrymandered power to undo the will of millions of Michigan citizens will. Make no mistake, this is an attack on our democracy and the American values that make our country strong."

You can watch the full press conference here: 

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