As the year draws to a close, so does Gov. Rick Snyder’s window to pass bills sent to him in the marathon-like December legislative session. Snyder vetoed or signed around 200 bills to clear his desk before governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer is sworn into office on Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 1238 and four other bills included with it change rules around voter registration and absentee voting set forward in Proposal 3, which was passed by voters in the November mid-term. The bills were proposed by Republican senate majority leader Mike Kowall, who represents district 15 in Oakland County.
Snyder signed the bills into law on Friday. The bills mandate election audit training for county clerks, specifies rules for same-day and mail-in voter registration, shortens the public-notice time period required of city and township clerks, specifies rules for absentee voting and adjusts required reporting by the clerks.
In addition, they mandate automatic voter registration when a state identification card or driver’s license is applied for or updated, provided the applicant has declared themselves a citizen and has not opted out of automatic voter registration.
Applications for drivers licenses have not previously required applicants declare citizenship.
Any accidental voter registration by someone otherwise ineligible to vote would not be prosecuted as a crime.
Representatives of the Proposal 3 Promote the Vote campaign, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, and the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service had expressed opposition to the bills, according to the legislative analysis from the House Fiscal Agency.
House Bill 6595 is a controversial bill that changes the way signatures on ballot initiative petitions must be collected. The bill was sponsored by Republican James Lower, and Snyder signed it late last week.
The West Michigan Policy Forum, the Michigan Catholic Conference, and several chambers of commerce and business and industry association supported the bill. The League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) of Michigan, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, and several other organizations are on record opposing the bill.
The provision of the bill that draws the most controversy requires that no more than 15 percent of the signatures on any petition be from a single congressional district. Supporters say it guarantees an initiative has support from a more geographical cross-section of enrolled voters. Opponents say it is an unnecessary barrier to the democratic process, since a ballot initiative is voted on statewide anyway.
The new law also requires that a petition identify whether the circulator is paid or volunteer, specifies the font size and format of the petition, and declares under what violations of the bill signatures would become invalid, like if a paid circulator provides fraudulent information or is not present at the time of petition signing.
House Bill 4205 is another controversial bill that Snyder has signed. It was proposed by Republican Representative Triston Cole of District 105, which surrounds the Gaylord area.
This bill prevents state agencies from creating more stringent rules or standards than the federal government without a “preponderance of evidence” suggests a need to exceed the federal standard.
Opponents say that the federal standards are more often meant as a minimum standard, not a maximum standard, while proponents say it will simplify business and industry that works across state lines, and minimize regulation.