Measures clean up state’s voter rolls, improve efficiency of local elections
State Rep. Ann Bollin today led the House in approving several reforms to clean up the state’s qualified voter file, add accountability and help local clerks run safe and secure elections.
The bipartisan effort fixes several issues uncovered in an audit of the state’s Bureau of Elections. Bollin, chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, said the audit highlighted the need for better procedures to remove or update information for voters with birthdates that indicate they are 120 years old.
“Leaving deceased people on our voter rolls is an open invitation for fraud,” Bollin said. “We’re taking action to improve security by making sure there are clear procedures in place to remove ineligible voters from the list.”
Outdated information in the QVF caused problems last year when the Secretary of State mailed absent voter applications to all voters in the file, and numerous households reported receiving applications for people who have been deceased for years.
House Bills 4127 and 4128 would set up a procedure to update or remove records in the QVF if an individual hasn’t voted since the 2000 November general election or if the individual has a placeholder date of birth.
House Bills 4129-31 make changes to address other issues uncovered in the audit by requiring the Secretary of State to publish a list of local clerks who are not up to date with continuing education or training requirements and adjusting due dates and deadlines for reviewing certain types of campaign finance statements and lobby reports.
Additionally, two measures sponsored by Bollin would give local clerks the flexibility needed to make sure elections run smoothly as absentee voting becomes more popular. House Bill 4134 would allow a local city or township to expand the size of its election precincts to account for the drop-off in the number of people voting in person.
“With more people choosing to vote absentee rather than in-person, it makes sense to provide communities with flexibility, so they can assign poll workers and allocate election equipment accordingly,” said Bollin, of Brighton Township. “Reducing the number of precincts would free up election workers, voting machines and other supplies to count absentee ballots on Election Day.”
Current law limits election precincts to 2,999 registered voters and allows precincts to be consolidated with up to 5,000 registered voters in non-federal elections. Under Bollin’s legislation, precincts would be allowed to contain up to 4,000 active voters. The measure would also give local governments additional flexibility to consolidate precincts during August primary elections.
The second measure, House Bill 4135, would require any city or township with more than two precincts or 6,000 registered voters to establish an absent voter counting board.
These panels, which are optional under current state law, are dedicated strictly to processing absentee ballots. Municipalities that do not utilize an absent voter counting board typically task election workers with feeding absentee ballots into the voting machines during lulls or after polls close in the precinct.
“Counting boards allow absentee ballots to be processed in a more efficient manner while still maintaining integrity of our elections process and ensuring voter secrecy,” Bollin said. “With the large increase we’ve seen in absentee voting, communities will benefit from increased efficiency and enhanced election integrity if these panels are utilized to focus on processing AV ballots.”
The bills received bipartisan support in the House, advancing them to the Senate for further consideration.
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