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Quality Elections for Michigan
Quality elections mean secure elections. We have witnessed incompetence and fraud with the Southfield Clerk and Flint Township Clerk facing charges, precinct poll books significantly off in the city of Detroit, and the Michigan Secretary of State sending out absentee ballot applications statewide to outdated voter rolls. These are facts that are accepted even by those in the media.
There is nothing more important to the bedrock of our democracy than making sure that our elections are secure, and that voters have confidence in how they are conducted. It is our obligation and duty to conduct high quality, accurate elections that are carried out effectively and efficiently. But many of our citizens have lost faith in our government’s ability to deliver on that promise. This Quality Elections for Michigan reform proposal will restore confidence in our election process.
1.) Require Photo Identification and Signature Verification – It is currently not mandatory to show a valid photo identification to vote. We need photo ID for most other things in our everyday life. It is about time Michigan joined other states in requiring a photo ID and signature verification. Therefore I am working to help get Secure MI Vote the signatures it needs for the citizen initiative, and challenge other candidates to help as well.
To ensure that only legal votes are cast, all voters must present identification when they vote or request an absentee ballot. If lower income qualified voters cannot afford a proper ID, the state should provide one for no charge.
A senate Report on the 2020 election said:
After reviewing these facts and receiving the testimony of experts and clerks, it is abundantly clear that the signature verification process is one of significant importance. With new policies in place due to the adoption of Proposal 18-3, current election procedures do not require a new voter to, potentially, ever make face-to-face contact with an election official or staff throughout the process of registration, requesting an absentee ballot application, or completing and submitting their ballot. Therefore, requiring a voter to confirm their identity at some point during the process is imperative.
Today’s voter ID requirements are lacking, especially with respect to absentee voting. In this age of identity theft and increasing sophistication of criminals, multifactor identification has become much more common. It only makes sense that multifactor identification would be utilized in something as important as voting.
The Qualified Voter File is already supposed to be updated with the state’s Driver’s License File. When completing and returning an absentee ballot, the voter should include a copy of their identification. Additionally, each signature on each absentee ballot should be compared to the voter’s signature.
2.) Hold Jurisdictions Accountable – Reward jurisdictions that balance their precinct poll books with the number of ballots cast with extra statutory revenue sharing and penalize those who do not.
In the Primary and General elections of 2020, Detroit had a problem balancing its polling books with the number of ballots cast. Consider these excerpts from a Detroit News Article:
Recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, spurring officials in Michigan’s largest county to ask the state to investigate ahead of a pivotal presidential election.
In 46% of all Detroit’s precincts — absentee and Election Day — vote counts were out of balance according to information presented Tuesday to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Specifically, the number of ballots tracked in precinct poll books did not match the number of ballots counted.
The number of precincts out of balance remained close to the same in November of 2020. Consider this excerpt from the Detroit Free Press:
Detroit voters reside in one of the city’s 503 precincts. In the August primary, roughly 72% of the city’s precincts recorded unexplained discrepancies between the number of absentee ballots counted and recorded while 70% of the city’s 134 counting boards tasked with counting absentee ballots for multiple precincts were out of balance in the November election.
Imbalance between the polling books and the votes cast in Detroit is as common as it is unacceptable. How can we have confidence in our elections when such sloppiness – or worse – has become commonplace? We have accepted this poor performance for far too long. It is time to hold them accountable by cutting statutory revenue sharing when poll books do not balance and rewarding those who do balance with additional revenue sharing payments.
Elections are the core and the bedrock of our form of governance. We must go above and beyond to ensure that we provide high quality elections that are airtight and restore the public’s trust. We know that there are significant issues with lack of training, poor compliance with post-election audits, sloppiness and inaccuracies in Detroit’s elections, lack of independence from the Secretary of State in the audit process, outdated and inaccurate qualified voter files and shoddy voter identification procedures for absentee voters.
This plan will fix these problems, protect against fraud and restore the confidence of Michiganders in our elections.
3.) Mandatory Compliance for Election Officials – The accuracy of our elections requires well-trained and compliant election officials. The Michigan Auditor General found compliance with certification and training to be seriously lacking. As reported by the Detroit Free Press regarding the Auditor General findings:
- Of 83 county clerks, 52% had not viewed the webinars or videos that provide information on required procedures of the post-election audits.
- 8 county clerks were not even certified at the time of the post-election audit.
- Of 22 other county election officials who conducted post-election audits, 13 had not viewed the webinars or videos.
Many of our election officials do a good job. But ALL of them must take training and compliance more seriously. Election officials should have to demonstrate and attest to full compliance with training and certification. There should be serious consequences for non-compliance.
4.) Real-Time Voter File – An accurate qualified voter file, updated daily with address changes and death certificates.
Michigan law requires the Secretary of State to maintain an accurate statewide Qualified Voter File (QVF) including updating the QVF with address changes from the Driver’s License File and removing people when they are deceased. A recent Auditor General Report revealed several troubling findings in the handling of the QVF.
The report found that over the last two years, 2,775 people voted when they were deceased because the QVF was not updated in a timely fashion so that clerks could sort early absentee voters who died before election day. Additionally, the report found that the QVF was not being adequately updated with driver’s license information which creates a risk regarding fraud and voters receiving the wrong ballot for their jurisdiction. This presents an unacceptable risk to election integrity.
In 2022, there is no excuse for the Secretary of State’s failure to update the QVF in a timely manner. The QVF should be up-to-date on the first day absentee ballots are mailed out and updated daily through each election.
5.) Audits Before Certification – Post-election audits should be conducted in the first month after each election and BEFORE certification of election results. The supervision of the post-election audits should be administered by a nonpartisan official or commission, independent of the Secretary of State who is one of the officials being audited. Non-cooperation with post-election audits should carry heavy penalties.
Article II, Section of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, as amended by Proposal 3 of 2018 provides Michiganders with the right to have statewide elections audited. Those audits as performed today are too little, and too late.
The recent Auditor General report on elections found that the Michigan Bureau of Elections failed to ensure that local clerks completed and timely submitted all required post-election audits.
According to the Detroit Free Press account of the Auditor General Report:
- Of 361 assigned post-election audits, 31 were not submitted by county clerks to the state’s eLearningCenter, and 12 were never completed. Of the 330 reports that were submitted to the eLearning Center, 34 were submitted two to 47 days late.
- The bureau did not ensure clerks hand counted ballots during the post-election audits, as required. For 40 of the 239 completed post-election audits, county clerks did not hand count the U.S. Senate race ballots, as required. And in 12 of those 40 audits, hand counting did not occur for any race.
Also, consider these damning findings as reported by the same Detroit Free Press Article:
“Inconsistent application of its prescribed procedures limits (the bureau’s) ability to effectively conclude or perform any potential statewide analysis of the county clerks’ hand count results,” the report said.
“The bureau informed us it was not aware that some county clerks did not hand count the appropriate statewide race; however, this information was available to the (bureau) in the eLearningCenter.”
“The report said the bureau’s reporting on the audits contained inaccurate information as a result of the lack of oversight.”
This is unacceptable non-compliance with an already too small sample size.
In future elections, the audits must be conducted independent of the Secretary of State and Bureau of Elections. There must be civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance or cooperation with post-election audits by election officials at the state and local level. And audits must be completed within one month of the election and before results are certified.
6.) No Unsolicited Absentee Ballot Applications – In the 2020 election, the Secretary of State sent mass mailings of unsolicited absentee voter applications based on an inaccurate and very outstated Qualified Voter File. This resulted in significant confusion when people were receiving absentee applications that were addressed to deceased voters and those who had moved.
The Michigan Senate’s 2020 election report identified the following vulnerabilities:
- In cases where the actual voter does not vote at all, it would be difficult or impossible to detect voter fraud from an unsolicited application returned by a different person who intercepted it.
- Applications sent to the former Michigan addresses of those moved out of state and applications sent to the new addresses of former Michigan citizens now registered to vote in another state constitute a real and virtually undetectable potential for fraudulent activity.
- There is essentially no mechanism in place to prevent counting votes from those who may be also registered and vote in another state, whether done by themselves or the recipient of an application at their former Michigan address.
While there are obvious risks, there is a simple solution. That is to only send absentee ballot applications to voters who request them.
7.) Requirements for County Board of Canvasser – They must be present during the canvass activities, expanding certain county boards where population requires it, and provide for additional time for the process to be completed.
It is difficult to trust that canvassers are adequately supervising and verifying election outcomes when they farm the responsibility out to some of the people they are supposed to be checking up on. Consider this troubling finding from the Michigan Senate’s 2020 election report:
The Committee did learn during testimony that Wayne County’s Board of Canvassers operates differently than most other counties, shifting the actual canvass responsibilities to the county clerk and their staff. Once the canvass is complete, the board receives a report, that is unusually anemic in its details of how imbalances were rectified. This is unfair to those serving on the board, as well as the voters of Wayne County, despite being permitted by law. A transparent canvass, overseen by those not responsible for the actual election process, allows citizens to understand how imbalances occurred and how they were rectified while having confidence that there was not a conflict of interest for those preforming the canvass.
Canvassers ought to be intimately involved in the process and the law should be changed to provide consistency and transparency in the canvassing process. Furthermore, it would be wise to allow for larger boards in higher population areas and to provide additional time to complete the canvass to rectify any irregularities.
Every County Board of Canvassers should take responsibility for the work they are appointed to do. If more time or a larger board of canvassers is required to complete the work in a larger county, so be it. Election integrity is worth the extra effort.