Whitmer vetoes more GOP election restriction bills, saying they would ‘burden’ clerks

By: - April 2, 2022 6:50 am

Susan J. Demas

The latest act in the ongoing Kabuki theater over election reform in Michigan played out Friday when Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as expected, vetoed two more GOP measures dealing with voter registration.

House Bills 4127 and 4128 would have required the Michigan Secretary of State to remove voters from the state’s Qualified Voter File (QVF) if they failed to respond to a letter notifying them they need to update their birthdate or if they haven’t voted since 2000.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her fourth State of the State speech, Jan. 26, 2022 | Screenshot

In her veto letter, Whitmer said that while she would “be proud to sign into law common-sense election reforms that strengthen our democracy,” these bills failed to do that.

“Instead, they would burden clerks and voters while increasing costs to Michigan residents,” she said. “I am therefore returning them to you without my approval.”

Initially, the office of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson supported the measures, but withdrew that support after amendments from GOP lawmakers that would, among other things, require voters flagged as inactive to provide birth certificates to confirm their registration, despite the fact that is not required when registering to vote.

State Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) sponsored House Bill 4127, which would have required voters with unknown birthdates in the QVF to either sign and complete a pre-addressed postcard along with a copy of their driver license, state ID card or birth certificate or present those documents in-person to their local clerk. 

Hall said it was in response to a state auditor general report that he claimed disclosed “hundreds of people on Michigan’s voter rolls are over 120 years old according to their birth dates listed – older than the oldest-living person in the world.”

However, the report in question was referring to placeholder birthdates that are intentionally assigned to voters when their actual birthdate is unknown. Those dates are made to be more than a century old so that the system will flag their records.

House Bill 4128 was sponsored by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) and would disqualify records in the state’s qualified voter file if an individual who hasn’t voted since the November 2000 election or has a placeholder date of birth failed to sign a postcard and provide their current address to their local clerk.  

Both bills would require local clerks to verify the voter’s signature on the postcards by comparing it to the one already on file. However, if the signatures didn’t match, the voter’s registration would be challenged. That would also be the case if the postcard were to be returned by the post office as undeliverable. 

Additionally, any voter who failed to return the postcards would be required to confirm their birthdate or current address before they could vote. 

Michigan Republicans announce voting restrictions ballot measure as end-run around Whitmer

The bills, which mostly passed along party-line votes, are just the latest in a series of legislative initiatives from Republican lawmakers in response to former President Donald Trump’s persistent false claim that he won the 2020 election, including in Michigan. 

That’s despite over 250 state and local audits confirming election results which showed Joe Biden beating Trump by more than 154,000 votes to win the state’s 16 electoral votes on his way to winning the White House.

Republicans also have started ballot initiatives, including one backed by the Michigan GOP, “Secure MI Vote” that includes many voter restrictions Whitmer has vetoed. If the GOP-led Legislature adopted the measure, Whitmer could not veto it and voters would not get to weigh in.

Now there also are two ballot measures in response that would expand voting rights, including one backed by Promote the Vote, which spearheaded the 2018 constitutional amendment that included no-reason absentee voting, same-day voter registration and more.


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.