Not every attempt by Republicans to protect the integrity of the vote amounts to voter suppression. Likewise, not every proposal from Democrats to make voting easier will open the floodgate to fraudulent ballots.
If the two sides could accept those premises, then perhaps they could merge their electoral reform efforts in Michigan in a way that restores trust in the process.
While Democrats point out there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, there remains considerable suspicion, based on the unproven post-election claims of former President Donald Trump and the rapid pace at which election norms changed in response to the pandemic.
Addressing security concerns should not be a threat to voting rights.
Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is offering a massive 39-piece package of bills to better secure balloting and put in place multiple levels of protection against fraud.
While there are a few problematic aspects to some of the bills, for the most part they are common sense reforms.
And yet Democrats are raising the knee-jerk accusations of racism and voter suppression that always accompany election integrity efforts.
Meanwhile, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has offered her own reform proposals, some of which are laudable.
But instead of working together on a compromise, Benson is refusing to appear before a Legislature she believes is intent on relitigating the last election. She has reportedly agreed to talk with individual lawmakers.
The end result is easy to predict. Lawmakers will ignore Benson’s ideas and pass and send to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer their own plan, which she’ll certainly veto.
Included in the Republican package are several measures dealing with the security of ballot drop-off boxes. The GOP is also seeking more transparency of the vote count, better access by ballot challengers to counting rooms and provisions for more training of challengers and poll workers.
None of that is offensive to a fair election, nor does it impede the ability to vote.
Among the provisions catching the most heat is one that would expand the size of county canvassing boards, which seems unnecessary.
Also being criticized is a requirement that those seeking an absentee ballot attach a copy of their ID to the application. Those who vote in person must show identification, so it’s not unreasonable to ask the same of those who vote by mail.
The Republican legislation would also forbid the the secretary of state from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot applications, and limit the involvement of third parties in distributing applications.
But the bills would also give larger communities more time too process and count absentee ballots, and allow for an early voting day the Saturday before the election.
Some of the things Republican lawmakers are proposing are also in Benson’s package, including training for poll workers and challengers, the early voting day and electronic balloting for military members stationed out of state.
She breaks with the GOP on mass distribution of absentee ballot applications, and would make Election Day a state holiday.
Her plan also includes concerning provisions to criminalize the spread of “disinformation” about election results.
There are things that should stay and should go in both sets of reforms. But there’s enough common ground to at least begin the work toward compromise on elections reform that would help assure Michigan voters of all political persuasions that their ballots are fairly counted.
— THE DETROIT NEWS