The legislation (Senate Bill 173, Public Act 269 of 2001) would remove the single-action straight party (or “straight ticket”) voting option from ballots in the state. Currently, general election ballots provide an option whereby voters can with a single mark on the ballot vote for either all Democrats or all Republicans in every partisan contest. Many contests appearing on ballots are not partisan, such as judges, local officials, and initiatives and referenda, and for these a voter must still make individual choices.
The legislation made a number of other changes in election law, some of them intended to avoid a replay here of the Florida vote counting fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. These changes would also be overturned by the referendum. The legislation would require an expedited canvass if unofficial results for a U.S. presidential election show a vote differential of less than 25,000 votes. The Secretary of State would direct the boards of county canvassers to certify results no more than 14 days after the election, and complete its own canvass not later than 20 days after the election.
It would establish in statute that a stray mark made in a predefined area on a ballot is not a valid vote, require election inspectors to determine whether a mark is a stray, and require the Secretary of State to issue instructions relevant to stray marks. (Michigan law already contains provisions against creative interpretations of whether the infamous “hanging chads” on punch card ballots are valid votes. If two corners of the chad are off, it’s a vote. Any other marks, “dimples,” “pregnant chads,” etc. do not constitute a vote.)
The legislation requires that if electronic ballot tabulating machinery is used, it must be programmed to reject ballots with more than one selection for a given office, ballots with no selections for any office, or ballots with candidates of more than one party chosen in a primary election. The voter must then be allowed to recast a fresh ballot.
A voter not listed on the precinct poll book or the state qualified voter file (QVF) would be required to present either a photo identification or a voter registration receipt. A voter who had moved to a new address within the same jurisdiction would have to either verify the change at least 30 days before an election, or vote in the old precinct, after first submitting an address correction.
The Secretary of State would be required to upgrade election official training procedures, and provide a comprehensive training to each local jurisdiction. The locals would have to certify that their officials had received the training. The legislation also tightened up ballot disclosure requirements for candidates with the same name as the previous officeholder, requiring the ballot to state that a candidate with the same name is not the same person, even if his or her surname contains a different generational designation.
Certain technical requirements for political parties following conventions are also revised in the legislation, and a provision requiring local clerks to annually review voter lists and remove the names of those who have not voted or reinstated their registration within five years would be repealed. Finally, the legislation makes it a misdemeanor for a paid election worker to also accept valuable consideration in order to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, and imposes misdemeanor penalties on those convicted of stealing a campaign yard sign.
The non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency reports initial production of the election official training video, and distribution of two copies each to 5,376 local jurisdictions, would cost the state $70,000, with an additional $35,000 every two years for redistribution.