August 15, 2012 Bookmark and Share

House Dems Support Bipartisan Election Reform Bill

Dems offer amendments to clean up election processes

LANSING - Michigan House Democrats today offered necessary amendments to a Republican-sponsored bill to end election fraud in response to recent news about Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger’s and Democrat-turned-Republican Representative Roy Schmidt’s effort to defraud and mislead voters by rigging an election.

While the Republican-sponsored bill, HB 4907, would help military service members overseas have more time to vote by absentee ballot, which the Democrats support, it does not go far enough to ensure that military voter ballots are counted, address election fraud and include basic election reform.

“This does not address many of the fundamental flaws in our election law related to the recent attempt to rig an election,” House Democratic Leader Richard Hammel (D-Mount Morris Township) said. “I appreciate the willingness to address these reforms together.”

Democrats offered a number of amendments two of which were adopted by the chamber. Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton) co-sponsored an amendment to change the filing deadline for incumbents running for the state legislature or county office and it was adopted. Currently incumbents must file by the 12th Tuesday before the August primary. This amendment would change that to the fourteenth Tuesday, which would give non-incumbents two additional weeks to file after incumbents’ deadline. This amendment would addresses Schmidt’s scheme to recruit family friend Matthew Mojzak to run as a Democrat in the election as Schmidt switched parties just moments before the filing deadline. Republicans went so far as to file Mojzak’s paperwork for him and offered him a bribe to run without campaigning, thereby trying to guarantee Schmidt an election-day victory while preventing the local Democrats from running a viable candidate.

Rep. Dian Slavens (D-Canton) successfully sponsored an amendment to require the Secretary of State to order clerks to extend the deadline for military and overseas ballots.

“This is a good first step and I’m glad it’s a bipartisan effort, but it does not go far enough to protect voters,” Smiley said. “I hope Republicans will discuss meaningful reforms in the coming months.”

Democrats unsuccessfully offered amendments to make voting easier and more accessible for military, overseas and citizens here in Michigan, including ones to:

  • Allow clerks to accept absentee ballots postmarked by the election date, instead of received by election day, for military and overseas ballots.

  • Allow military service members and citizens living overseas to electronically vote.

  • Prevent anyone from paying an individual a fee for filing to run for election.

  • Increase election fraud penalties from $1,000 to $10,000.

  • Remove the requirement that a voter provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

  • Enable citizens to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballots.

“It is important that all citizens, including those serving overseas in the military, be able to have their votes counted. We want to make it easier, not harder, for our men and women in uniform to exercise their right to vote,” House Redistricting and Elections Committee Democratic Vice Chair Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) said.

Democrats also supported the provision that would prevent a costly $650,000 special primary election as is currently happening in the 11th Congressional District as a result of former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) resining in shame because of a petition signature scandal.

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