Decline to sign petition
The bipartisan Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks opposes the Secure MI Vote Initiative. It creates new barriers to voting, while disenfranchising many legitimate voters from both parties.
As the elected Bloomfield Township Clerk, it is my job to administer elections and to keep voters apprised of threats to voting rights or to voting security. The Secure MI Vote Initiative is one such threat, and it must be defeated.
If the petition number is reached, the Republican legislature will pass this proposal into law without the Democratic Governor’s signature, and, more importantly, without a popular vote. This is both undemocratic and contrary to the wishes of 84 percent of voters, who, according to a poll recently conducted by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, want election law changes to be bipartisan.
The initiative is ostensibly aimed at placating those who fear widespread voter impersonation. This fear is not supported by any facts — impersonation almost never occurs. Moreover, voting laws and procedures already effectively prevent impersonation and provide severe punishments to the minuscule few who attempt it.
One provision would require citizens to disclose the last four digits of their social security number in order to register to vote, which is both unnecessary and burdensome. The full social security number is already required to get a driver’s license or a state ID, and this database is cross-checked against the voter database. Why should registering to vote expose us to greater risk of identity theft?
Another provision proposes to eliminate the ability to vote without identification by signing an affidavit to that effect. This affidavit process rarely occurs. In Bloomfield Township, only 24 out of 31,137 ballots cast in the November 2020 election required the affidavit process. Importantly, no one claims that any of these 24 people impersonated another voter.
But the most concerning provision of the initiative is aimed at stifling absentee voting. It proposes to condition the ability to vote absentee on agreeing either to disclose private information or to appear in person. This would place unwarranted risks and burdens on those who rely on absentee voting. It would require those applying for an absentee ballot to provide our drivers’ license number, the last four digits of our social security number, or a copy of our identification to the clerk’s office. If this is not done, the clerk must issue a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if the voter personally appeared in the clerk’s office to present identification no later than six days after casting the ballot.
In November 2020, 22,728 citizens of Bloomfield Township voted absentee, entirely without incident. The initiative would defeat the very purpose of an absentee ballot, as those who are homebound or temporarily out-of-town will be prevented from voting without disclosing private information. There are already multiple and redundant procedures in place to confirm absentee voter identity and address possible fraud. Specifically, ballots are mailed only to registered voters, with a confirmed address, and after applying with the signature that appears on their driver’s license. The signature requirement remains a strong method to confirm identity and absentee voting is not the only democratic process utilizing signatures – signatures are utilized to determine which special assessment districts tax property, which candidates are on the ballot, and even whether the Secure MI Vote Initiative is presented to the legislature for adoption.
In short, this initiative is a solution without a problem. It would damage the absentee ballot process, reduce voting opportunities, and impose significant administrative costs on clerks, without any added budgetary support, and with no ability to prevent the kinds of fraud that, regardless, rarely occur.
Citizens have a right to election laws that make voting both accessible and secure. The Secure MI Vote does neither. It is a lose-lose initiative – a proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution with provisions that would produce unnecessary hurdles for most voters, while adding nothing to election security.
We should not sign this petition.
Martin C. Brook
Bloomfield Township Clerk