LANSING — Michigan Republicans on Wednesday revised a contentious bill that would have required voters to attach a copy of their photo ID when mailing an absentee ballot application, saying they could include their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number instead.
It was the second time in weeks that the GOP-led Senate Elections Committee relaxed a key proposal in legislation that would tighten voting rules. Democrats said the measure remains flawed, would make it harder to vote and looks to solve nonexistent problems.
Voters currently seeking an absentee ballot must sign the application. The signature is matched to the signature in the voter file.
Meghan Reckling, chief of staff for Sen. Lana Theis, a Brighton Republican and sponsor of the bill, said not requiring proof of identity to request a ballot by mail is a “glaring loophole.” It was not immediately clear why the measure was amended, though opponents had noted that not all voters can print a copy of their ID at home.
Another bill would toughen an existing photo ID requirement at polling places. Voters without one — estimated to be less than 1% — could no longer sign an affidavit and cast a ballot that is counted on Election Day. Instead, they and absentee voters without an ID would vote a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity with the local clerk within six days for it to be tabulated.
“There is no doubt that requiring identification verification is critical to ensuring the integrity of our election process moving forward,” Reckling said.
But Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said current voter ID laws work and that the legislation would “do nothing more than disenfranchise” voters. State Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, said sending personally identifiable information through the mail “absolutely” increases people’s chances of being victimized by identity theft.
The panel did not vote on any bills. It has held a weekly hearing on the 39-bill package for six weeks.
Several measures would be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. But the state Republican Party has said it plans a maneuver that would enable the Legislature to pass them into law if enough signatures were gathered.
Also Wednesday, the GOP-led House voted largely along party lines to make it a felony to knowingly submit an absentee ballot application with false information or try to apply for multiple ballots. The measures went to the Senate for consideration. The governor vetoed identical legislation in October, saying voter fraud already is a crime and that the legislation likely would have confused voters.