Gov. Gretchen Whitmer again vetoed election bills Friday, blocking proposals that would accelerate the state's review of ballot initiatives and change the process for canceling the registrations of dead voters.
The Democrat said the legislation would “divert key resources away from ensuring that every qualified Michigan resident can cast a secure ballot in our elections.” It was the second time in two weeks that she vetoed election measures.
Whitmer will soon veto more controversial Republican-sponsored legislation that would toughen voter ID requirements and ban the secretary of state and local clerks from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
One bill vetoed Friday would have required the state elections board to canvass signatures for an initiative petition within 100 days of the filing. It currently must make a determination no more than 100 days before the election in which the proposal would appear on the ballot.
The legislation was introduced after Unlock Michigan, a GOP-affiliated group that wiped from the books a law the governor used to issue COVID-19 orders, and Republican lawmakers complained that the signature review took too long. Officials have said they were busy preparing for the presidential election and doing postelection audits, and the deadline was not until 2022.
Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, whose office includes the elections bureau, opposed the bill because it did not include additional funding to help meet the new deadlines.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Ruth Johnson of Holly, said the legislation was necessary because Benson's office took six to nine months to process the last two citizen initiatives.
“It disenfranchises people who are trying to exercise their rights under the constitution to propose changes to our laws,” she said.
The other bill vetoed Friday would have revised the administrative process for removing dead people from voter lists and required more frequent checks during the 45-day period before an election.
Whitmer said the measure, which had bipartisan legislative backing, would have added “burdensome requirements that would distract from core election administration responsibilities." She said she would sign legislation allowing county clerks to flag dead voters in the 15 days before an election, when she said Social Security records might be insufficient to update voter records in a timely fashion.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Michael McDonald of Macomb Township, said county and municipal clerks supported his bill. He accused Whitmer of playing “partisan games.”
“How do we provide safe and secure elections in our state if the governor can't even agree that we should be ensuring dead people aren't on our voting rolls?” he said.
Whitmer said she would sign legislation to let overseas military members and their spouses vote electronically, establish permanent absentee voter lists and give clerks more time to process absentee ballots.
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