Sec. of State Proposes to Change Election Rules

Watch: 2022-02-23 at 085652 Joint Committee on Administrative Rules 22-2-23.mp4

Louis Avallone. Fast forward to 29:35
Patrice Johnson. Fast forward to 23:33

by Patrice Johnson

 “I am personally going to condense my opposition to a few minutes by citing the election laws I believe are trampled by the proposed rules.”

— Louis Avallone, PIME supporter, wrote in PIME’s Call to Action on Feb. 22

Feb. 22, 2022: A handful of citizens showed up at yesterday’s 9 a.m. meeting of the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules at the Binsfield Building in Lansing. At stake were three rule changes proposed by the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. The rules, in PIME’s opinion, would gut the integrity out of Michigan’s elections. But JCAR, unusual in that it is composed of both House and Senate members, appears to be hamstrung from striking down the rules and can only review and send them back to the SOS for rewrite. 

All 10 members of JCAR were present. Since Republicans hold the majority in both houses, 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats sit on JCAR, and Republican Luke Meerman chairs the committee. 

No one was present from the secretary of state’s office, so aides took the stand to summarize the rules. The full text of the rules is viewable below, and PIME’s assessment is as follows:

Signature matching for absent voter ballot applications and absent voter ballot envelopes (JCAR 21-73). These rule changes the presumption to assume all ballot signatures are valid. It makes it so difficult for a clerk to challenge a signature, that the clerk will eventually stop trying. PIME argued that the role of the clerk is to verify that the applicant is a real and qualified voter, not to presume validity. “Evidence of trembling or shaking,” “the use of initials, or the rearrangement of components of their full legal name,” the signature “may have changed slightly over time” or “been written in haste,” the surface “made may have been rough.” The clerk was required to jump through hoops to cure questionable signatures and document any rejections. In no time at all, clerks were bound to give up. 

To quote Louis Avallone’s letter of opposition, “Worse yet, because the ‘—’ is regarded as a valid “signature on file”, the same ‘simple line’ marking can be used to ‘sign’ the corresponding absentee ballot return envelope for it to be accepted. This makes it extremely easy for a fraudulent ballot to be included in the voting pool. Taken to the extreme, a single ‘simple line’ marking presented as a signature could lead to the ‘legal’ release and acceptance of countless fraudulent ballots.”

PIME opposed on the basis that the rules defy logic and violate Michigan statutes. 

Online absent voter ballot application (JCAR 21-74) proposes to change the process for applying online to allow applicants to cut and paste their signatures onto their application form, going so far as to allow the applicant to copy and paste their signature from the Qualified Voter File. Absurd as it sounds and putting the risks to identify theft aside, the proposal would gut any vestiges of preserving election integrity through signature verification. Plus, it would put the clerk in the untenable position of comparing the applicant’s signature to itself. 

PIME opposed on the basis that the rules defy logic and violate Michigan statutes. 

Disqualification from ballot based upon contents of affidavit of identity (JCAR 21-72) proposes to change the rules for the handling of candidate affidavits and require a candidate to be disqualified from appearing on a ballot if the candidate’s Affidavit of Identity was found to contain a false or incorrect statement. The problem lay in clause (4): “Candidates disqualified on this basis cannot reverse disqualification by filing a corrected affidavit.” 

Find an error, big or small, and an opponent’s name cannot appear on the ballot. No opportunity to correct. No appeal process. 

Political operatives in fascist countries are reputed to wield this tactic to great effect in eliminating their opposition. 

PIME opposed on the basis that the rules defy logic, violate Michigan statutes, and are inconsistent with the SOS’s lenient approach on the other rules. 

Thank you to Republicans Luke Meerman (chair), Steve Carra, Matt Hall, Jon Bumstead, Ed McBroom, and Lana Theis for voting to send the rules back to the SOS for revision.

It is important to note that these rules have not gone away. They will come back in about 30 days for review again.

Stay tuned. 

You can obtain the meeting notices and sign up for notification of upcoming meetings from the following link:
 https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(o3d5ocekwdnhuvo4z1oaottq))/mileg.aspx?page=MCommitteeMeetings

Michigan Legislature – Committee Meetings
The Michigan Legislature Website is a free service of the Legislative Internet Technology Team in cooperation with the Michigan Legislative Council, the Michigan House of Representatives, and the Michigan Senate.
www.legislature.mi.gov

Feb. 22, 2022

JCAR 21-72

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, BUREAU OF ELECTIONS

DISQUALIFICATION FROM BALLOT BASED UPON CONTENTS OF AFFIDAVIT OF IDENTITY

Filed with the secretary of state

These rules take effect immediately upon filing with the secretary of state unless adopted under section 33, 44, or 45a(9) of the administrative procedures act of 1969, 1969 PA 306, MCL 24.233, 24.244, or 24.245a. Rules adopted under these sections become effective 7 days after filing with the secretary of state.

(By authority conferred on the secretary of state by section 31 of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.31)
 
R 168.1, R. 168.2, R. 168.3, and R. 168.4 are added to the Michigan Administrative Code, as follows:

R 168.1  Definitions.

  Rule 1.  As used in these rules:

  • “Affidavit of identity” or “affidavit” means the filing made pursuant to section 558 of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.558.
  • “Compliance statement” means the statement required by section 558(4) of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.558, that the candidate does not owe any statements, reports, fines, or late filing fees.  
  • “Filing official” means the township, city, or county clerk or the secretary of state with which the affidavit of identity is filed.
  • “Notice of error or omission” means the notice issued pursuant to section 16(6) of the Michigan campaign finance act, 1976 PA 388, MCL 169.216. 

R 168.2  Statement on the affidavit of identity regarding compliance with the 

  campaign finance act.

  Rule 2.  (1) For the purposes of the candidate’s statement that as of the date of the affidavit, all statements, reports, late filing fees, and fines required of the candidate or any candidate committee organized to support the candidate’s election under the Michigan campaign finance act, 1976 PA 388, MCL 169.201 to 169.282, have been filed or paid, an outstanding notice of error or omission is not a statement, report, late filing fee, or fine for the purposes of section 558(4) of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.558. A candidate with an outstanding notice of error or omission may be disqualified based on the unfiled or unpaid statement, report, late filing fees, or fines upon which the notice was based.

  (2) When submitting an affidavit of identity, the candidate shall disclose every jurisdiction in the state of Michigan in which the candidate previously sought nomination or election. The candidate is not required to disclose a jurisdiction in which the candidate previously sought nomination or election if the only offices for which the candidate previously sought nomination or election in that jurisdiction are not offices for which candidates are required to file campaign finance statements under the Michigan campaign finance act, 1976 PA 388, MCL 169.201 to 169.282. A failure to disclose a jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which the candidate previously sought nomination or election shall not be a reason to disqualify a candidate from appearing on the ballot.

  (3) The filing official shall examine the campaign finance records of the secretary of state and county clerk for any county in which the candidate previously sought nomination or election, if applicable, to determine whether the candidate made a false statement in the affidavit of identity. 

  (4) The filing official shall disqualify a candidate who falsely states that as of the date he or she signed the affidavit of identity, all statements, reports, late filing fees, and fines required of the candidate or any candidate committee organized to support the candidate’s election under the Michigan campaign finance act, 1976 PA 388, MCL 169.201 to 169.282, have been filed or paid. Candidates disqualified on this basis cannot reverse disqualification by filing a corrected affidavit. 

  (5) A candidate who files a statement of organization and does not request a reporting waiver is presumed to owe the campaign statement for the reporting period that includes the date the candidate committee was formed.

  (6) A candidate who, as of the date he or she signed the affidavit of identity, has not responded to a notice of error or omission shall not be disqualified solely for that reason.

R 168.3  Other information on the affidavit of identity.

  Rule 3.  (1) The affidavit of identity must contain the following information that is true and complete as of the date the candidate signs the affidavit of identity: 

   (a) The candidate’s name. If a candidate is using a name that is not a name that he or she was given at birth, the candidate shall include on the affidavit of identity the candidate’s full former name, unless the candidate is exempt from this requirement under the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.1 to 168.992.

   (b) The candidate’s residential address.

   (c) A statement that the candidate is a citizen of the United States.

   (d) The title of the office sought by the candidate. 

   (e) If the candidate seeks nomination or election to a partisan office, he or she must include the following: 

    (i) The name of the political party with which the candidate is affiliated. 

    (ii) If seeking nomination or election to a partisan office without being affiliated with a political party, the candidate must indicate “no party affiliation” using these or similar words or phrases.

   (f) A statement that the candidate meets the constitutional and statutory qualifications for the office sought.

   (g) Other information that may be required to satisfy the officer as to the identity of the candidate.

   (h) The manner in which the candidate wishes to have his or her name appear on the ballot. 

   (i) Any other information required by section 558 of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.558.

  (2) Subject to subrule (3) of this rule, a candidate who omits information required by this rule may correct the omission by filing a new affidavit of identity up until the filing deadline elapses. The filing official shall disqualify a candidate who fails to correct an omission by the filing deadline.  For purposes of this subrule, omissions include, but are not limited to, blanks or incomplete information on the affidavit of identity, but do not include omissions on the compliance statement required by section 558(4) of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.558.

  (3) The filing official shall disqualify a candidate who provides false information as of the date the candidate signed the affidavit of identity regarding information required by this rule.  Candidates disqualified on this basis cannot reverse disqualification by filing a corrected affidavit.

R 168.4  Date of signing; notarization.

  Rule 4.  (1) The affidavit of identity must be signed, sworn to, and dated by the candidate.  All information given and statements made by the candidate on the affidavit of identity must be true as of the date that the affidavit is signed. 

  (2) An affidavit of identity must be notarized in accordance with the Michigan law on notarial acts, 2003 PA 238, MCL 55.261 to 55.315. 

JCAR 21-73

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

BUREAU OF ELECTIONS

SIGNATURE MATCHING FOR ABSENT VOTER BALLOT APPLICATIONS AND ABSENT VOTER BALLOT ENVELOPES

Filed with the secretary of state on 

These rules take effect immediately upon filing with the secretary of state unless adopted under section 33, 44, or 45a(9) of the administrative procedures act of 1969, 1969 PA 306, MCL 24.233, 24.244, or 24.245a. Rules adopted under these sections become effective 7 days after filing with the secretary of state.

(By authority conferred on the secretary of state by sections 31, 759, 761, 765, and 765a of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.31, 168.759,  168.761,  168.765, and 168.765a)
 
R 168.21, R 168.22, R 168.23, R 168.24, R 168.25, and R 168.26 are added to the Michigan Administrative Code, as follows: 

R 168.21  Definitions.

  Rule 1.  As used in these rules:

  • “Election official” means the township, city, or county clerk or their staff responsible for verifying signatures.
  • “Master card” means the master card document referenced in 761(2), 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.761, and 766(2), 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.766.
  • “Qualified voter file” means the voter registration database maintained by the Secretary of State.
  • “Signature on file” means the signature of the voter contained in the qualified voter file. If the qualified voter file does not contain the voter’s digitized signature, the signature of the voter contained on the master card is the signature on file. If an absent voter ballot application signature has been compared against the signature of the voter contained in the qualified voter file or on the master card and the absent voter ballot application signature has been determined to agree sufficiently with the signature of the voter contained in the qualified voter file or on the master card, the absent voter ballot application signature is also a “signature on file” for the purpose of this ruleset. Nothing in this ruleset shall be construed to allow an absent voter ballot application signature to be used to validate an absent voter ballot envelope signature unless the absent voter ballot application signature has been found to agree sufficiently with the signature of the voter contained in the qualified voter file or on the master card.

R 168.22  Sufficient agreement of voter signature; initial presumption of 

validity; voter contact by clerk.

  Rule 2.  (1) In determining for purposes of section 761(2) of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.761, or for the purposes of 766(2), 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.766, whether a voter’s absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature agrees sufficiently with the voter’s signature on file, signatures must be reviewed beginning with the presumption that the voter’s signature is his or her genuine, valid signature. An election official may decline to accept a signature only if, after reviewing an absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature using the process set forth in these rules, the election official determines that the signature does not agree sufficiently with the signature on file.

   (2) A voter’s signature should be considered invalid only if it differs in significant and obvious respects from the signature on file. Slight dissimilarities should be resolved in favor of the voter. Exact matches are not required to determine that a signature agrees sufficiently with the signature on file.

   (3) If, after examining a voter’s absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature using the process set forth in these rules, an election official has genuine concerns about the signature’s validity, the election official may contact the voter to address those concerns prior to determining that a signature is not valid. Any efforts by the election official to contact a voter under this subsection is not notification for the purposes of R 168.25 that the absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature has been found not to agree sufficiently with the signature on file. An election official who is unable to determine that the absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature agrees sufficiently with the signature on file after contacting or attempting to contact the voter for clarification under this subsection is still bound by the notification timelines set forth in R 168.25.

R 168.23  Redeeming qualities.

  Rule 3.  (1) In determining whether an absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature agrees sufficiently with a signature on file, election officials shall consider whether any redeeming qualities are present. The bureau of elections shall provide examples of signatures with redeeming qualities and questionable signatures. 

   (2) Redeeming qualities include, but are not limited to, the following:

    (a) Similar distinctive flourishes.

    (b) More matching features than nonmatching features.

    (c) Signature features do not match because it appears as if the voter’s hand is trembling or shaking.

    (d) Only part of the signature matches the signature on file, for example, if only the first letters of the first and last name match.

    (e) Signature is partially printed but partially matches the signature on file.

    (f) Signature is a recognized diminutive of the voter’s full legal name.

    (g) Signature omits a middle name, replaces a middle name with an initial, or replaces a middle initial with a name.

    (h) Signature style has changed slightly from signature on file.

R 168.24  Explanations for differences in signatures.

  Rule 4.  (1) Elections officials shall consider the following as possible explanations for the discrepancies in signatures:

    (a) Evidence of trembling or shaking in a signature could be health-related or the result of aging.

    (b) The voter may have used a diminutive of their full legal name, including, but not limited to, the use of initials, or the rearrangement of components of their full legal name, such as a reversal of first and last names, use of a middle name in place of a first name, or omitting a second last name.

    (c) The voter’s signature style may have changed slightly over time.

    (d) The signature may have been written in haste.

    (e) The surface of the location where the signature was made may have been rough, soft, uneven, or unstable.

   (2) In addition to the characteristics listed in R 168.23(2)(f) and (g), the elections official may also consider factors applicable to a particular voter, such as the age of the voter, the age of the signature or signatures contained in the voter’s record, the possibility that the voter is disabled, the voter’s primary language, and the quality of any digitized signature or signatures contained in the voter’s record, and any other plausible reason given by the voter that satisfies the clerk when following up on a questionable signature. 

R 168.25  Timing of signature review and notification.

  Rule 5.  (1) If the absent voter ballot application or the absent voter ballot envelope is received at least 6 calendar days prior to the election, the clerk must notify the voter of issues with the voter’s signature by the end of the next business day following receipt of the application or ballot envelope. 

   (2) If the absent voter ballot application or the absent voter ballot envelope is received less than 5 calendar days prior to the election, an election official must review that absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope by the end of the calendar day on which the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope was received by the clerk. If the election official determines that the voter’s signature on the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope does not agree sufficiently with the signature on file, the election official must contact the voter by the end of the calendar day on which the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope was received by the clerk. 

   (3) If the absent voter ballot application or the absent voter ballot envelope is received by the clerk by 8 p.m. on the calendar day prior to an election, an election official must review the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope before the end of the calendar day prior to the election. If the election official determines that the voter’s signature on the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope does not agree sufficiently with the signature on file, the election official must contact the voter by the end of the calendar day prior to the election.

   (4) For the purposes of this rule, if the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope comes into the physical control of the clerk’s office before or during the clerk’s scheduled business hours, that absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope is considered to have been received by the clerk on the day of submission. If an absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope comes into the physical control of the clerk’s office after the end of the clerk’s scheduled business hours, or if the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope comes into the physical control of the clerk’s office on a day on which the clerk does not have scheduled business hours, that absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope is considered to have been received on the first subsequent day during which the clerk has scheduled business hours.     

   (5) If a clerk’s jurisdiction maintains one or more absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope drop boxes, each drop box must be checked by an election official for any absent voter ballot applications or absent voter ballot envelopes that have been deposited prior to the end of the clerk’s scheduled business hours on every day during which the clerk has scheduled business hours. The election official checking the drop box must retrieve each absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope contained in the drop box at that time. Each absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope retrieved at that time is considered to have been received by the clerk on that day. An absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope deposited in those drop boxes on a day during which the clerk does not have scheduled business hours will not be considered to have been received by the clerk until the next day on which the clerk has scheduled business hours.

   (6) An absent voter ballot envelope that is collected by an election official through the procedure laid out in 764b(4) or (5), 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.764b, shall be considered received when the election official comes into physical possession of the ballot envelope.

   (7) Nothing in this rule shall prevent an election official from providing notification more quickly than mandated by this rule to a voter that the voter’s absent voter ballot application signature or absent voter ballot envelope signature has been determined not to agree sufficiently with the signature on file.

   (8) If the absent voter ballot application or the absent voter ballot envelope is missing the voter’s signature, or if the clerk determines that the voter’s signature on the absent voter ballot application or on the absent voter ballot envelope does not agree sufficiently with the voter’s signature on file, the clerk shall inform the voter using any and all contact information available that their absent voter ballot application or their absent voter ballot envelope is missing a signature or has a non-matching signature, and the need to cure the signature deficiency. The clerk must notify the voter by phone and email, and, in the absence of the voter’s email address, by United States mail.

R 168.26  Curing signature deficiencies.

  Rule 6.  (1) Any of the following methods may be used to cure a missing or mismatched signature:

  • A voter may provide a signature on the absent voter ballot application or ballot envelope with the missing or mismatched signature;
  • A voter may complete and submit a signature cure form prescribed by the Secretary of State; or
  • A voter may follow another form or method of curing a missing or mismatched signature as specified by the election official on their website or in the election official’s office.

   (2) A voter may cure a missing or mismatched signature up until the close of polls on Election Day.

   (3) If a request if made by a voter, an election official may facilitate the cure of a missing or mismatched signature by making arrangements to

    (a) collect a cure form; or 

    (b) provide the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope missing a signature to the voter so that the voter might sign the absent voter ballot application or absent voter ballot envelope.

JCAR 21-74   

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

BUREAU OF ELECTIONS

ONLINE ABSENT VOTER BALLOT APPLICATION

Filed with the secretary of state on 

These rules take effect immediately upon filing with the secretary of state unless adopted under section 33, 44, or 45a(9) of the administrative procedures act of 1969, 1969 PA 306, MCL 24.233, 24.244, or 24.245a. Rules adopted under these sections become effective 7 days after filing with the secretary of state.

(By authority conferred on the secretary of state by section 31 of the Michigan election law,  1954 PA 116, MCL 168.31)

R 168.31, R 168.32, R 168.33, R 168.34, and R 168.35 are added to the Michigan Administrative Code, as follows:  o 

R 168.31  Definitions.

  Rule 1.  As used in these rules:

  • “Absent voter ballot application” means the paper application developed by the secretary of state or the online application described in R. 168.32. 
  • “Jurisdiction” means the city or township in which the voter is registered. 
  • “Manual digital signature” means a digitally captured image of a registered voter’s handwritten signature. 
  • “Qualified Voter File” means the voter registration database maintained by the secretary of state.
  • “Stored digital signature” means the image of the registered voter’s signature captured by the department of state and maintained in the department of state’s motor vehicle database.

R 168.32 Maintenance of online absent voter ballot application; form.

  Rule 2.  (1) The secretary of state shall maintain an online absent voter ballot application. 

  (2) This online absent voter ballot application must provide an option that allows qualified and registered voters to request an absentee ballot for an election occurring in their jurisdiction. 

  (3)  The online absent voter ballot application must be in substantially the same form as the absent voter ballot application developed by the secretary of state under section 759 of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.759.  

R 168.33  Use of digital signature on online absent voter ballot applications.

  Rule 3. (1) The online absent voter ballot application must provide an opportunity for a voter to use the voter’s stored digital signature on file with the secretary of state on the application.

  (2) In order to allow a voter to use the voter’s stored digital signature, the online absent voter ballot application must verify the voter’s identity and registration status by requesting the voter’s name, complete driver’s license or state ID number, full date of birth, last four digits of the voter’s social security number, and eye color.

   (3) For registered voters whose stored digital signature is on file with the secretary of state, the online absent voter ballot application must be signed with that stored digital signature. 

  (4) Registered voters without a stored digital signature on file with the secretary of state may provide a manual digital signature by uploading a photograph of their physical handwritten signature to the online absent voter ballot application. 

  (5) Completed online absent voter ballot applications, including digital signature, must be sent electronically through the Qualified Voter File to the city or township clerk for processing. An application signed using a stored digital signature or manual signature must be treated identically as an application signed with a physical handwritten signature.

R 168.34  Processing online absent voter ballot application.

  Rule 4.  The clerk of a city or township shall process online absent voter ballot applications in the same manner as all absent voter ballot applications submitted by a voter pursuant to section 759 or 759a of the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.759 or 168.759a.  

R 168.35  Prohibited conduct.

  Rule 5. Online absent voter ballot applications are subject to the same prohibitions governing completion and submission of all absent voter ballot applications.     

Published by pureintegrityformichiganelections

Dedicated to restoring election integrity in Michigan.

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