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Voter signature bills heard by state House committee

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A set of bills that would require Michigan to more frequently update signatures in its database of qualified voters received a hearing before the state House Elections and Ethics Committee Tuesday.

House Bills 5573, 5574, and 5575 would lower the number of times someone can renew their driver’s license or state ID remotely before they must go in-person to a Secretary of State office. The bills would also require the signature collected during that in-person renewal to replace an existing one in the state’s database.

Committee chair Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp) is among the package’s sponsors. During the hearing, she said there’s no current requirement to update a voter’s signature in the state’s file.

“Signatures can vary over time, and updating these signatures will enhance the security and integrity of our elections,” Bollin said.

But Michigan Department of State legislative policy director Adam Reames told the committee the state does update its file with a new signature when voters renew their IDs in person -- even if the law doesn't mandate that action.

“We think that, right now, that the system works well, that clerks have good guidance about what to do if they see a signature that doesn’t match or that they’re not quite sure about,” Reames said.

The bills would require in-person ID renewal every eight years instead of every 12. That would reverse a change made last year to let Michiganders remotely renew their ID twice before having to visit an office to do so. Bollin told the committee she felt the change was an oversight put in place as part of another program.

“The signatures need to be updated. There’s no mechanism for that right now. In 12 years, your signature does appear differently,” Bollin said.

Despite that, Reames said signature verification is working, and the extended remote renewal period helps reduce crowding at secretary of state branches.

“We still believe that it was a good customer service change, that we don’t particularly need to make a change right now to that schedule and flip around and now go back to the eight-year cycle,” Reames said.