Election reform: includes a veto…and reaction

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation to increase election transparency, prevent election fraud and provide consistency across all voting locations, but he also used his veto power.

The election reform bills provide for better documentation of campaign funding and increase penalties for neglecting to follow regulations.

“These reforms will make a good election system even better by adding appropriate safeguards and improving transparency,” Snyder said.

Most of the bills are based on reforms proposed by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

“There is nothing more sacred to democracy than integrity in our elections – safeguarding the principle of one citizen, one vote,” said Johnson. “Our system is the best in the world and I encourage every voter who can do so to register and vote to have their voice heard on Election Day. These measures, along with electronic poll books and post-election audits, will work together to ensure integrity in the process.”

The governor signed 11 bills regarding election reform:

…Senate Bill 751, sponsored by state Sen. Dave Robertson, streamlines the voter registration process. It enables courts to monitor the voter registration status of people who have surrendered their Michigan driver license and could be registered to vote in multiple states. The bill is now Public Act 270 of 2012.

…H.B. 5062 and S.B. 752, sponsored by state Rep. Anthony Forlini and state Sen. Goeff Hansen, ensure proper handling of election materials by establishing election clerk education programs as well as a post-election review process. On-site ballots and absentee ballots must be printed using the same format to provide consistency for election officials responsible for reporting results. The bills are now P.A.s 271 and 272.

…H.B. 5059 and S.B. 753, sponsored by state Rep. Sharon Tyler and state Sen. Jack Brandenburg, require any political party attempting to qualify as a new recognized party in Michigan to report on their spending. All independent committees must also file a quarterly spending report. The bills are now P.A.s 273 and 274.

…H.B. 5058, sponsored by state Rep. Marty Knollenberg, prohibits the use of campaign funds to pay for a candidate’s legal expenses in cases unrelated to running for office. Any unauthorized legal costs must be paid for using a separate fund. The bill ensures donors that their funds are used only for campaign-related expenses. The bill is now P.A. 275.

…S.B.s 823, 824 and 825, also sponsored by Robertson, improve transparency of the election process. Any ballot or petition language must be submitted to the Secretary of State prior to circulation of the petition and the Secretary of State will post this language to its website for easy voter access. The bills also prohibit posing as an election official in a polling place on Election Day and move the deadline for a candidate to file nomination petitions to the 15th Tuesday before the primary rather than the 12th or 14th Tuesday. The bills are now P.A.s 276, 277 and 278.

…H.B. 5297, sponsored by state Rep. Rick Outman, allows members of the U.S. armed forces and overseas U.S. citizens to vote in state and local elections by absentee ballot. Military members and overseas citizens already have access to federal elections via the same means. The bill is now P.A. 279.

…H.B. 4656, sponsored by state Rep. Anthony Forlini, prohibits the name of any elected official or any person running for official office to appear on any ballot related materials. It is already law that no candidate can display material within 100 feet of a polling place. With regard to an absentee ballot, the envelope and related materials is identified as a polling place, therefore no official names may appear on the envelope. The bill is now P.A. 280.

But the Governor vetoed the following:

…Senate Bill 754, sponsored by Mark Jansen, sought training for people, companies and organizations participating in voter registration. While Snyder supports the concept of training individuals involved in voter registration, he said changes with the registration of third party voter registration organizations, and the timing and training of those entities, may cause confusion with ongoing voter registration efforts.

…H.B. 5061 and S.B. 803, sponsored by state Rep. Brad Jacobsen and state Sen. Darwin Booher, aimed to prevent voting fraud by requiring a voter to reaffirm U.S. citizenship before receiving a ballot and requiring photo ID when picking up an absentee ballot from a city office. Snyder said he appreciates the issue of ensuring voters are eligible and U.S. citizens, however this legislation could create voter confusion among absentee voters.

A number of groups have issued media statements in response to the veto by Governor Snyder:

… Progress Michigan Executive Director Zack Pohl released the following statement in response to Gov. Snyder’s veto of HB 5061 and SB 754 and 803:
“Gov. Snyder deserves credit for finally doing something truly tough as governor, by standing up to the extreme forces in his own party who are committed to suppressing the vote this November. It’s refreshing to see a Republican governor do the right thing by opposing this unfair and undemocratic legislation. Now it’s time for Ruth Johnson and Lansing Republicans to abandon their voter suppression agenda, and start focusing on expanding access to voting.”

…Statement by Michigan State AFL-CIO President Karla Swift on Gov. Snyder’s Veto of Voting Restrictions
“Governor Snyder did the right thing today by vetoing a controversial package of laws designed to make access to the ballot box more difficult. This is a great day for all Michigan voters, and the labor movement commends the governor for standing up to extremists in his own party.”

…Statement of Todd Cook, Director, “We Are the People, Michigan” regarding Governor Snyder’s Veto of Voter Supression Bills
“Our right to vote has been protected – and that’s good news for Michigan.” Cook went on to say, “Thousands and thousands of voters asked Governor Snyder to veto this ill-conceived legislation, including more than 2,800 people who signed a petition from our coalition of seniors, students and working families. We’re glad he listened to us.”

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