Restricting access to recounts threatens election integrity

Democrats are attempting to limit the ability to challenge election results in what amounts to an overreaction to rejection of the 2020 balloting by some Donald Trump supporters. Their efforts risk further eroding trust of Michigan voters in the integrity of elections.

Nothing that happened four years ago should be used as an excuse to eliminate valid checks and balances against fraud and abuse of the electoral system.

Legislation passed by the Senate in April and now pending in the House would narrow the parameters for ordering a recount of votes in a contested election and would raise the fees associated with a recount. It would also increase penalties for violating election laws governing recounts.

Automatic recounts for votes that fall within narrow margins will still be issued, and petitioners can request a recount on allegations of error.

The aim is to eliminate recounts based on unfounded claims of fraud, as happened in 2020.

The risk is the legislation will discourage legitimate challenges and allow election cheating to go undiscovered.

Suspicion of fraud is not a valid reason for a recount under the proposed bills, nor is contesting the manner by which voters received their ballots. Accusations of fraud would be referred to law enforcement but would not trigger retabulating.

The legislation “makes clear that a recount is not an audit or investigation,” said bill sponsor Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit. “As we all know from four years ago, those words are not interchangeable, and this clarification of the law is important to minimize confusion among voters.”

Suppressing the rights of voters and candidates to question the outcome of elections lends credence to the belief there is something to hide.

That’s particularly true when election laws are undergoing significant changes.

Michigan has already vastly expanded voting access by various means, including keeping polls open for up to a month before Election Day, starting vote counts more than a week before Election Day and broadening absentee voting. Now Democrats want to make it illegal to question how certain votes may be acquired.

Democrats are also pushing a Michigan Voting Rights Act, which would require local governments and state agencies to enact policies to more aggressively ensure voting access to individuals of different racial backgrounds, language minority groups or disabilities.

The legislation was crafted in close cooperation with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office.

But the voting rights legislation extends beyond the federal voting standards and would make clerks vulnerable to legal action for not having equal outcomes for various identity groups.

The plan would force jurisdictions to prove their policies aren’t denying access to individuals of color — which is already federally prohibited — and would create a public database of election and demographic data, among other things.

Another provision would require ballots to be printed in more languages.

These are new costs and burdens local jurisdictions will have to bear at the behest of the secretary of state’s office, which has failed to supply local clerks with the resources they need to implement the previous election law changes.

One reason so many voters have lost faith in the electoral process is the pace at which Democrats are changing election laws, and often to their partisan advantage. Changing laws while restricting the ability to challenge the outcome will further erode trust.

Challenges to the 2020 election did not change the outcome. But they did demonstrate with certainty that results were legitimate. The steps to getting there were disruptive, but necessary.


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