The Michigan Election Reform Alliance (MERA) is a nonprofit, non-partisan,
pro-democracy, grassroots organization dedicated to the realization of election
processes that consistently uphold the principles of democracy to ensure the
confidence of voters and maximize representation of all citizens of the United
States of America. More
Information on registering to vote, student voting, for poll workers and challengers, Michigan Secretary of State, candidate's positions,
your current Michigan representatives, election results, and more.
Please make donations payable to "Michigan Election Reform Alliance.Org"
and mail to:
P.O. Box 981246
Ypsilanti, MI 48198-1246
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MERA is a 501(c)3 organization; contributions are deductible on federal taxes.
All contributions are dedicated to MERA's election reform projects.
BenDor and Stanislevic: What could go wrong on Election Day?
By Jan Franklin BenDor and Howard Stanislevic
"A Republic, madam, if you can keep it." This was Ben Franklin's description of the fragile product of the new United States Constitution, in answer to a Mrs. Powel, as he left the convention hall on Sept. 17, 1787. He could as well have been describing the country on Nov. 6, 2012. We share Ben's anxiety as members of a growing number of worried computer scientists, analysts and election administrators who fear what will happen on Election Day. . . . (More from the Detroit News, 11/2/12.)
S.O.S. Authority on Citizenship Check Box Denied
Federal Court Orders Question Removed from 2012 Ballot Applications
After the Michigan August primary brought to light considerable voter confusion over a citizenship check box on applications to vote, MERA aggressively challenged Secretary of State Johnson's authority to use the citizenship question inspite of Gov. Synder's veto (see below). The Michigan Election Coalition was listening and quickly formed a group to litigate the point in federal court.
On October 5th, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman ordered Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove the U.S. citizenship question from ballot applications for the Nov. 6 election, citing potential confusion and inconsistent use of the inquiry. Johnson declined to appeal before the November election. (Read the full story.)
Michigan Secretary of State Leads Voter Harrassment Effort with Citizenship Check Box
When Governor Snyder vetoed three voter suppression bills in June (see below), apparently Secretary of State Ruth Johnson didn't get the memo.
Since October, 2011, Secretary of State Johnson and the staff of the Michigan Bureau of Elections have engaged in conduct which has caused election administrators in every jurisdiction in Michigan to put a hurdle in the way of every voter’s exercise of the right to vote. By such conduct, they appear to be guilty of a felony under MCL 168.932 (a) "A person shall not attempt, by means of bribery, menace, or other corrupt means or device, either directly or indirectly, to influence an elector in giving his or her vote, or to deter the elector from, or interrupt the elector from, or interrupt the elector in giving his or her vote at any election held in this state." They have also suborned the same felony to be committed by thousands of election assistants, precinct chairs and election inspectors in the February 28 and August 7, 2012 elections.
Secretary of State Johnson originally announced her “S.A.F.E.” package of election bills in the fall of 2011, including a bill to create a new mandate that voters be required to answer a citizenship question on the application to vote.
Without waiting for legislative hearings, and without any authority in law, Ms. Johnson started to require the inclusion of the question in the 10/21/11 "News You Can Use" (The Secretary of State's online newsletter for Clerks.)
On January 20, 2012, still without any authority in law, Ms. Johnson continued the directive to include the citizenship question on applications to vote in the February 28 presidential primary. (p. 1,2.) The directive ordered Clerks to deny a ballot to any voter who refuses to swear to their own citizenship at the polls. Clerks were also ordered to start the process of cancelling such voters' registrations — a process that is not authorized by law for the factual situation where there is no direct evidence of non-citizenship. (See the NVRA - National Voter Registration Act. Refusing to swear to one's citizenship is not evidence of non-citizenship!)
On August 6, the day before the primary election, Ms. Johnson reissued the directive to clerks permitting the use of the citizenship check box on applications to vote. This time, however, the clerks were eventually instructed to issue a ballot even if the voter refused to check the citizenship check box.
MERA is pursuing legal action against Secretary of State Johnson on the basis of voter complaints from the August 7th primary.
Early this Summer Michigan narrowly escaped some of the worst voter suppression measures. Three bills passed the legislature in June that would have extended photo ID requirements for voting, harshly regulated third party voter registration drives, and required a check-box for citizenship in the application to vote at the polls (S 751, S 754; HB 5061).
On July 3rd, Governor Snyder vetoed all three bills, giving a major victory to the people of Michigan and the non-partisan coalition that had fought hard against these bills for many months. MERA was in the thick of the fight this Spring, testifying at numerous hearings of the House Committee on Redistricting and Elections. MERA testimony is here. The coalition included the League of Women Voters, Project Vote, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union, MERA, and others.
Various measures to increase the use of photo ID in indentifying voters (S 754, HB 5061) pose a particular threat to election security, in addition to suppressing the votes of minorities, seniors, and poor and transient people, including students. It is far easier to fake a photo ID for voting than it is to fake a signature, which can and should be checked against the registered voters original signature from their registration application. Thus photo ID requirements amount to security theater, which pleases a certain audience while actually damaging election security. See MERA's recent opinion piece for the detailed argument and reframing of this issue: "Voter's Signature or Photo ID: Gold Standard or Fraud?"
December 2, 2009
A recently completed state program to cancel Michigan voter registrations was flawed and may have
violated state law and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Unprecedented in Michigan,
the program was poorly planned, mismanaged, often hidden from local clerks, mostly invisible to
the media, and unaccountable to the public.
Conducted by the Michigan Bureau of Elections from July 2006 until June 2009, the
state program sought to remove invalid voter registrations. It was the first voter list maintenance to
be centrally administered in Michigan and began
when the Bureau sent more than 7 million voters a purportedly “educational” postcard. When the
U.S. Post Office returned cards and indicated a wrong address, the voters’ registrations were marked for
possible cancellation. The report found that the Bureau's use of 'educational' postcards "effectively
masked the fact that the postcards were part of a voter list purge."
The investigation revealed that the state program was very likely a response to partisan political
pressure from the Voting Rights Section of the Bush administration’s Department of Justice. "Under pressure
from the Department of Justice, Michigan’s state-level election
officials chose by mounting the program to participate in a partisan attempt to manipulate the election
system with minimal regard for voters’ rights or the responsibilities of local clerks."
In the end, the program was expensive, with limited effectiveness and a significant error rate. The $2 million
cost was ten times higher per tagged record than previous efforts conducted in targeted jurisdictions with the
cooperation of local clerks. The program tagged 230,000 registrations for possible cancellation.
122,598 were finally cancelled in June 2009. Of those, the report estimates that about 2,611 (2.1%) were
cancelled erroneously. The program’s cost was $16.31 per tagged record, as compared to $1.58 per
tagged record in the earlier targeted approach.
The program conformed to NVRA requirements to give voters notice and observe a grace period before
finally cancelling registrations. But it failed to treat voters uniformly and it did not keep adequate records.
Both are required by the NVRA. The program also flaunted Michigan laws that give local clerks
responsibility for voter list maintenance.
The report makes several recommendations.
To avoid costly purges, the report suggests a “dynamic” registration process that ties voter records to
other governmental record-keeping activities. Voter registrations would be automatically added or
updated when other milestones in life are reached, such as high school and college registration,
employment changes, auto and driver’s license renewals, registration for health care, or
To improve government accountability, the Michigan Secretary of State should:
Publish pertinent policies on voter list maintenance
Educate voters on keeping their registration current
Announce all major list maintenance programs in advance and publish detailed results after completion
Provide a database with multilingual instructions for voters to check for errors and correct them
Although it is unknown whether any election outcomes were affected by the state program, the investigation
shows that Michigan’s election system is vulnerable to partisan manipulation. “The primary importance of
the Michigan program,” the report concludes, “lies not in the very modest improvement in list accuracy
that it may have accomplished, but rather in the examples it presents of what not to do and what practices
to avoid . . . , if voting rights are to be respected and honored.”
Contacts: Jan BenDor, State Coordinator, 734-484-1744,
Phil Shepard, Report Editor, 517-332-0761,
The complete report is available at:
Voters can easily check whether their voter registration
has been cancelled by calling their local clerk (city or township).
Voters that have any doubt about their registration should immediately visit
their city or township clerk and complete a new voter registration form, if needed.
Registration forms can also be completed at any Secretary of State Branch Office
or downloaded and then mailed
or delivered to the city or township clerk.
January, 2009 Legislation for
Post-Election Audits in Michigan that MERA has written and proposed will
be introduced in the current legislative session by Rep. Rebekah Warren (Ann Arbor) and
cosponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (East Lansing).
At present there is rarely if ever any check on the accuracy of Michigan elections.
Candidates are often loath to request recounts, even in very close elections,
for fear of being labeled "sore losers" or "sour grapes." The Board of State
Canvassers, under the leadership of Chris Thomas, head of Secretary of State
Land's Bureau of Elections, has even asserted a dubious authority to
reject legal recount petitions, at its sole discretion.
(Minutes of the Board of State Canvassers, 11/27/06, p. 2).
The paper ballots that are the official record are typically
processed once electronically during voting on election day and then locked away.
They can be consulted again only if a court so orders or a recount petition is approved.
How then can Michigan voters know whether the electronic vote count is accurate?
How can we know the declared winner of an election contest actually won?
As long as we continue to rely on electronic vote counting on election night,
the only way to know is to audit the vote count after the election!
Sat. Feb. 24, 2007. At the Michigan Democratic Party's state convention Saturday,
delegates resoundingly passed an election
reform resolution based on legislative proposals
developed by the Michigan Election Reform Alliance.Org (MERA). Drafted by Mary Shindell of Scio
Township, the resolution was also endorsed two weeks earlier at the county convention of the
Washtenaw party committee.
The resolution embraces these key elements of the MERA plan:
Amend the Michigan Constitution to guarantee a right to vote.
Ensure voting machine security.
Require hand count audits.
Mandate full recounts by hand of any race or ballot issue if the margin of victory is 2%
Mandate new elections for any race or issue if mistakes or fraud have corrupted the election process
beyond the possibility of an accurate and conclusive recount.
Allow anyone to vote absentee with no reason necessary.