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Benson slams GOP election package aimed at reversing absentee ballot, early voting policies

absentee ballot
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

Hearings are expected to begin soon in the Michigan Legislature on a 39-bill Republican election package aimed at reversing absentee ballot access and early voting policies in the battleground state.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, on Thursday slammed the bills, describing them as a response to a problem that doesn’t exist, and that would tamp down legal voting.

“It is un-American, and an affront to every voter in this state,” she said during an online news conference. “The 39 bills they have introduced do not reflect the values, wants, or needs of our citizens, our state, or our country.”

Benson said that’s especially true since voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution in 2018 to make it easier to vote using an absentee ballot.

A primary element of the GOP legislation is a requiring a photo ID to vote in person, or to get a mail-in ballot. Benson said a particularly egregious measure would require people dropping off or mailing in an absentee ballot request to include a photocopy of their driver’s license. She said that subjects absentee voters to an increased risk of ID theft.

The bills would also limit the hours people could use to drop off absentee ballots in drop boxes.

Benson said what’s happening in Michigan is also taking place in other states.

“Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Wyoming. Soon, Ohio,” she said. “We’re seeing the exact same bills, exact same language, in some cases.”

The bills have also drawn the opposition from leaders of some of the state’s top businesses, including the Detroit Three automakers, Rocket Mortgage, and southeast Michigan professional sports teams.

Republican leaders are standing by their efforts.

From Michigan Republican Party spokesperson Ted Goodman:

“We will support legislation that is focused on commonsense election reforms. Democrats and their special interest allies are being disingenuous when they mischaracterize election reform as voter suppression. We stand by efforts that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

A GOP-led petition campaign is also in the works to initiate a law that could not be vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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