The following guest post was written by Ingham County Clerk and former State Representative Barb Byrum.
Recently, President Trump assigned Vice President Mike Pence to oversee a special commission to investigate what he believes to be voter fraud.
While I welcome this investigation, I believe the resources that will be expended could be better spent on strengthening the integrity of elections, nationwide.
Which brings me to my next concern: Why is the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) facing elimination on the brink of this federal investigation (H.R.634)?
The EAC is an independent, bipartisan agency of the federal government which was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to help rectify the issues with the 2000 Election in Florida. The EAC is arguably the only federal agency authorized to make sure voting machines cannot be hacked. It is charged with supporting state and local election officials to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections by serving as a vital resource to election administrators around the country.
In light of the voter fraud allegations by the Trump Administration, it seems unusual that Congress would be looking to eliminate this crucial federal agency, at this time.
Last week, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson sent a letter to Vice President Pence indicating her belief that the federal government should not “play a substantive role in election administration.” However, she went on to ask that they “help states remove the names of deceased voters from voter rolls” and “pass a law that allows a voter to be efficiently removed at state motor-vehicle offices from the voting rolls if that voter registers or secures a driver’s license in another state.”
Further, Secretary Johnson requested the sharing of non-citizen information with state election officials. She also wishes for the creation “of a comprehensive, national database or repository of election-related crimes.”
While I certainly agree that, in Michigan, the Qualified Voter File (QVF) needs attention. I believe much of that can be done by allowing County Clerks the opportunity to make updates in the QVF. For example, when someone passes away, the death certificate is filed with the County Clerk’s Office. However the County Clerk cannot update the QVF of the newly-deceased voter. Rather, they must notify the local, municipal clerk to mark the voter deceased within the system. This bogged-down routine is cumbersome and does not allow for quick updates to the voter rolls.
In addition to allowing County Clerks to update the QVF, all states should be required to participate in the Interstate Crosscheck. After conducting 15 elections as the Ingham County Clerk, I fully understand the need to increase the efficiency and participation of the Interstate Crosscheck. This is a system that allows for communication between states regarding newly-registered voters so the former state can proceed with the process of cancelling the voter due to change of voting address. Currently, only a few states voluntarily participate in this program. This must include participation by all states to ensure there is a formal process followed to ensure voters are only registered in one state.
A similar system could be utilized for deceased voters who may have voted in their residential state, but passed away in another state. This information should be made available to all state and local election officials. This will allow officials to remove deceased and moved voters from the voter rolls in a timely and regular basis.
Voter identification laws and regulations for registering to vote vary from state to state. However, the concern of voter fraud occurring due to non-citizens unlawfully voting should be addressed through a federal verification system. Strict identification requirements effectively disenfranchise some Americans, including minorities, the elderly and the disabled. Voter rolls should be kept up to date at the state and local levels by allowing all election officials, including County Clerks, to input data and utilize federal system information.
The federal government can provide support to state, county and local election officials who can successfully implement these solutions to strengthen the integrity of elections throughout our nation.
[Photo by Denise Cross Photography | Flickr]