Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has unveiled several election reform proposals to ensure election integrity by closing loopholes and requiring more transparency and accountability. Some of the proposals are warranted. However, we need to see specific legislative language seeking to implement other changes before we can fully weigh in.
Legislative sponsors of Johnson’s Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Initiative reportedly will include state Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford).
Highlights of the initiative include:
• Tougher campaign finance laws, including felony charges and forfeiture of campaign funds for the most serious offenders;
• Requiring organizations to file campaign finance reports to keep the public in the loop about who is funding and behind those organizations;
• Cleaning up Michigan voter rolls, which reportedly include deceased people and non-Michigan residents;
• Establishment of an Election Crimes Unit that would include an Election Day response team and hotline so serious allegations can be probed;
• Expanded use of electronic or “e-pollbooks” at the polls on Election Day to prevent fraud and reduce clerical errors;
• New policies for after polls close; and
• Post-election audits and closing photo ID loopholes.
Having organizations file campaign finance reports certainly is worthwhile. This would help shed some light on “stealth” political efforts by injecting a fair measure of transparency into the campaign finance system.
There’s no reasonable argument against cleaning up Michigan voter rolls. Johnson references a Pew Center on the States study indicating there’s more Michigan adults registered to vote than there are eligible adult voters. That obviously doesn’t add up and needs to be resolved.
Felony charges and forfeiture of campaign funds by the most serious campaign finance law offenders are worthy of consideration. However, we need to see the details of this proposal before we can take a firm stand. The same goes for expanded use of “e-pollbooks” at the polls, new policies to follow after polls close, post-election audits, and closing photo ID loopholes.
Establishing an Election Crimes Unit is an intriguing idea. Our only hesitation on this proposal is the potential cost involved. This is no time for an expansion of state government or increased spending. We’ll be curious to see what this proposal will cost and whether that cost will be covered through cutbacks elsewhere or via fines paid by violators.
In the meantime, we’re disappointed that Johnson’s reform initiative doesn’t include no-reason absentee voting, which we believe would improve voter participation and therefore make election results more representative of the public’s will.