Opposition raises $2.5M to fight Michigan GOP voting changes

Lansing Capitol Building

LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan group has raised $2.5 million from a liberal nonprofit to fight a Republican-backed ballot drive that would toughen voter ID requirements, ban the unsolicited mailing of absentee ballot applications and make other election changes.

Protect MI Vote received the funding from Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group backed by anonymous donors on the left, according to a report filed with the state Monday. Protect MI Vote had spent nearly $1.6 million as of last week, mostly to pay FieldWorks, a company working to defeat the initiative.

Secure MI Vote, which recently began circulating petitions, does not have to submit its campaign finance statement until Nov. 2. If the ballot committee collects roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures, the GOP-led Legislature can enact the changes into law without Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's signature.

She will soon veto similar legislation passed by Republican lawmakers.

FieldWorks' website says it is opening offices in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and Troy. It is paying $20 to $22 an hour.

The Michigan Democratic Party is encouraging people to decline to sign the petition and to call a hotline to alert Protect MI Vote of circulators' whereabouts. Field teams will be dispatched to the same areas to educate voters.

Jamie Roe, spokesman for Secure MI Vote, said of the effort: “Out-of-state leftists funding an operation designed to create confrontation and conflict — that’s voter intimidation and an attempt to suppress a right guaranteed by the Michigan Constitution.”

Supporters say the initiative, which follows a wave of new laws in Republican-controlled states that tighten election rules, would secure voting and restore confidence in elections. Opponents say it would make it harder to vote and perpetuate false claims that widespread fraud enabled Democrat Joe Biden to win the presidential election.

Voter fraud is extremely rare. Michigan has charged just five people with attempted fraud in last November's election.

The measure would require absentee voters to provide a copy of their photo ID with the application or to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. It would eliminate the ability for in-person voters without an ID to sign an affidavit and vote.

Instead, they — and absentee voters who fail to attach ID information — could cast a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity within six days of the election for it to count.

The initiated legislation also would require the last four digits of a Social Security number to register to vote. The secretary of state and local clerks would be prohibited from sending absentee applications to people who did not request them. The initiative also would specify minimum times that clerks must accept absentee ballots for in-person or drop box delivery, prohibit the use of private donations to administer elections and create a $3 million fund to waive ID fees for low-income people.

The funding shields the measure from a later referendum.

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