Secretary Johnson: Voters Should Be Registered In Just 1 State;
Deceased Quickly Removed
Johnson endorses common-sense reforms in response to presidential election commission
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today presented several common-sense election reforms to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, including the need to have the federal government and states work together to clean up voter rolls by removing deceased voters and voters registered in multiple states.
In response to a recent request from the commission to state election administrators about how the federal government can help improve election administration, Johnson proposed that state motor vehicle agencies be required to notify a voter’s prior state of residence when an individual moves to a new state and registers to vote there. Once the election administrator in the voter’s former state of residence receives confirmation that a voter has moved and registered to vote in another state, the voter registration in the previous state could be cancelled. Federal law already requires motor-vehicle agencies to ask driver’s license applicants if they want to register to vote.
“This common-sense reform would provide for the efficient removal of nonresidents from state voter rolls, while minimizing the opportunity for individuals to vote in multiple states at the same election,” Johnson wrote in her letter to the commission. “Once fully implemented, the legislation will enhance state efforts to ensure that votes are cast only by eligible voters and will result in cost savings for state and local election administrators.”
Improved voter information sharing among the states was strongly endorsed by President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration as a way to better maintain voter records nationally.
Johnson also recommended that the federal government provide the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased Social Security card holders to states at a much lower cost than states are now charged so the deceased can be quickly removed to eliminate a vulnerability to voter fraud. Additionally, she said the federal government should do more to assist states in identifying noncitizen registered voters so those records can be removed from the voter file. She encouraged the federal government to provide noncitizen information to state election officials to ensure voter rolls do not include ineligible individuals. This data sharing also would help protect noncitizens who inadvertently become registered to vote and seriously jeopardize their legal path to U.S. citizenship.
In response to a question about finding ways to prevent voter intimidation or disenfranchisement, Johnson noted that having clean, accurate voter rolls will protect all voters by reducing the possibility that a voter visits the wrong polling location, and then is challenged or given a provisional ballot that may not be counted. Additionally, Johnson shared her opposition to allowing cameras and video recorders in polling places, as an ongoing lawsuit that her office is vigorously defending against seeks.
“I am particularly concerned that allowing photography in the polling place would be viewed by some voters as intimidating or coercive, as it compromises ballot secrecy,” she wrote. “A voter or an image of his or her ballot may be surreptitiously recorded and posted on social media without the voter’s knowledge or consent.”
President Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity this year to review voter registration and voting processes nationwide. Vice President Pence chairs the commission, which has solicited ideas for improvements from each state’s chief election officer.
As part of its request for information, the commission also sought voter registration data from all 50 states. Consistent with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), any individual or group may request and obtain publicly available voter registration data. Basic voter information such as name, year of birth and dates of elections in which a person has voted, but not how a person voted, will be released to the commission if it submits the required FOIA request form and pays the standard fee for the voter records. The state’s voter file is routinely released to candidates, political parties, news outlets and academic researchers, among others, as required by state law.
The copy of the letter to the commission is available online.