Editorial: Purge ineligible voters ahead of vote by mail

The Detroit News

The first step in making voting by mail easier in Michigan is to ensure the voting rolls are up to date. The state has a ways to go before it can make that claim with confidence.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recently did a mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, and many went to deceased voters or those who have moved from the address where the letters arrived. 

No big deal, Benson says. The reports will help her cull the active voting rolls of names that shouldn't be on it.

That seems an inefficient way of rooting out ineligible and dead voters. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where those applications are returned by people other than the ones named on the address for the purpose of casting fraudulent votes.

That’s not a fictional concern, as Democrats often complain. A Republican activist last week filed a lawsuit against Benson and other state election officials, charging that in 16 counties voter rolls are poorly maintained and susceptible to fraud.

A lawsuit filed by a Republican activist claims that 16 counties in Michigan have poorly-maintained voter rolls.

The lawsuit claims that in Leelanau County, for example, the voter registration rate is 102%.

Also last week, Attorney General Dana Nessel charged a Southfield city clerk with six felony counts of falsifying absentee ballots in the 2018 election.

Election fraud is real — how widespread, no one can say.

But we are coming up to an election in which political passions are running extremely high, and the temptation to cheat to win will be greater.

Moving quickly to audit the voter rolls and purge them of ineligible voters is a necessary step. That's not voter suppression. It's protecting the integrity of the vote.

Voting by mail holds the promise of engaging more people in the democratic process, and increasing voter participation is an admirable goal.

But it should not be achieved by sacrificing trust in the electoral system.