Michigan polling place

A polling place in Lansing, Mich, on November 3, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – The GOP-led Michigan Senate approved a bill aiming to change election laws they say will secure elections.

The bill passed despite the objection of Democrats decrying the legislation as voter suppression. 

The main bill as amended, Senate Bill (SB) 303 passed on a 20-15 party-line vote. The bill seeks to require stricter voter ID measures. Voters seeking an absentee ballot would have to submit a copy of their driver’s license or state ID, provide the last four digits of their Social Security number, or present ID to the city clerk in which the voter is registered.

If the applicant doesn’t provide the above information, the clerk must issue the applicant a provisional absentee voter ballot that wouldn’t count unless the applicant verified their identity to the clerk before 5 p.m. on the sixth day after election day.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, said many “everyday transactions" require photo identification, such as buying alcohol or even receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Where's the outrage from across the aisle about that?" Nesbitt said in a floor speech. "There's a reason why 80% of Americans support showing photo ID to vote. It's commonsense."

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, said that ordering alcohol is not a right, unlike voting.

The revised bill seeks to prohibit election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications unless they are specifically requested. Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent out absentee ballot applications before the 2020 presidential election, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to make socially distanced voting easier.

Another provision seeks to ban the use of private funds flowing into elections. In the 2020 presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s charity spent about $400 million funding elections nationwide, with nearly $8 million funding Michigan’s elections.

The provision says the prohibition of private funds applies to election activities including voter registration, voter eligibility review, and such election equipment as tabulators, voting facilities, and absentee voter drop boxes.

Senate Democrats initially railed against bill provisions that were removed just hours before. Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said the last-minute change was unfair.

"When it’s a conversation about voting rights, all of us should be participating in it. All of our constituents stand to gain and lose," Moss said. "This is way too consequential to change the rules and change the language and change the bill at the very last minute. Which, again, is only to continue the chasing after this fundamental lie that there’s something wrong with our elections to begin with."

Hertel said Republicans only want to change election laws because Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. He called the bills a “game” because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will likely veto the bills that appear to mirror the MI Secure Vote petition initiative that Whitmer can’t veto.

“When you won your election, every one of you in this room, I don’t remember that point where you questioned the results afterwards,” Hertel said.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcun, rejected the characterization that these bills were part of what has been characterized as the “Big Lie” that Michigan’s election was unfairly won by Pres. Joe Biden. He said all of these provisions were a priority before the 2020 election because they are widely supported in Michigan.

The bill returns to the House. If passed by the House, it will likely be vetoed by Whitmer.

The Senate abruptly adjourned before lawmakers took up two remaining bills. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake’s spokeswoman Abby Mitch said the chamber will take up SB 304 and HB 5007 on Thursday.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.