Bills clarifying Prop 3 voting changes advance in House

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Michigan Sen. Mike Kowall, (R-White Lake) listens as Representative Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) testifies before the Senate committee on Governmental Operations Tuesday.

Lansing — A legislative attempt to codify the voter-approved voting changes through ballot initiative are headed to the House floor after it cleared a committee vote on Wednesday.

In a 6-3 vote, the House Elections and Ethics Committee passed a bill that proponents say would create enabling language needed to implement Proposal 3, which would allow for same-day voter registration, straight-ticket voting, no-reason absentee voting and regular election audits.

But opponents took issue that some of the bill language would limit access for potential voters and is suspect because the Proposal 3 ballot committee, Promote the Vote, was not consulted on the legislation.

“Nothing in this bill conflicts with any rights guaranteed under Prop 3,” said GOP Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake, the sponsor behind the five-bill package. “This action is necessary to ensure that Prop 3 is carried out according to the intent of voters while clarifying several areas that are left open to interpretation.”

The package clarifies the audit procedure and automatic registration, requires residents to register in person at a local clerk’s office on Election Day or within 14 days of an election, and adjusts existing election law to be in line with the voter-approved changes.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office does not have an official position on the bill, but some “implementation language” for Proposal 3 is appropriate, said spokesman Mike Batterbee.

Democrats raised concerns that requiring residents to visit a local clerk’s office for registering within 14 days of the election would limit options in a way that was not spelled out in Proposal 3.

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said local clerks oppose the idea of precinct registration on Election Day because it would require internet access in each polling place and potentially raise security concerns. But clerks would support an option for clerks to designate additional locations where they could offer late or election day registrations, Roebuck said.

Particularly in larger communities with many precincts, he said, it could be more difficult for would-be voters to drive to one particular location in order to register.

Limiting late registration to a clerk's office is “not overly burdensome,” Batterbee said, but Democrats disagreed.

“What we’re talking about is making sure the (qualified voter file) is always secure,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor. “We share that concern, but this idea around not being able to do it at multiple locations poses a hindrance to residents, or could, and that’s where my main concern is.”

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