Governor Whitmer Signs Historic Election Bills Package to Ensure Every Vote Can be Cast and Counted
DETROIT, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a historic package of bills that will ensure every vote in Michigan can be cast and counted, no matter who you are or where you live. The new laws will improve election efficiency, increase voter registration opportunities, and protect equal access to the ballot box. The election package delivers on the promise the governor made in her What’s Next Address to protect election workers and makes good on election reform proposals made in her Growing Michigan Together speech.
“Today, we are expanding voting rights and strengthening our democracy,” said Governor Whitmer. “Michiganders spoke clearly last year when they overwhelmingly passed Proposal 2, and now we are building on that effort. By banning deepfakes and AI in campaign advertisements, criminalizing violence towards election workers, and allowing souls to get to the polls, we are making our sure every Michigander’s vote is cast and counted.”
“Voting is the first fundamental right, and we must work together to ensure everyone can make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Last year, I launched MI First Vote to deliver supportive, informed experiences for first-time voters. These bills will build on that work and empower more Michiganders to participate in our democracy. Governor Whitmer and I will keep standing tall for secure and fair elections in Michigan.”
“This is a great day for democracy and for the people of Michigan,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “I’m grateful to the Governor and to our legislative partners doing the thoughtful, collaborative work to make our elections safer and more accessible for all citizens. With these new tools we are well-prepared to administer secure and fair elections in 2024 and to preserve the strength of Michigan’s democratic process for future generations.”
Protecting Election Workers and Officials
House Bill 4129, sponsored by state Representative Kara Hope, guarantees protection under the law for Michiganders from the actions of intimidating an election official and preventing an election official from performing the official’s duties during an election and enforces a corresponding criminal penalty.
“Elections can’t take place without the poll workers who do this often thankless temporary work out of a sense of civic duty,” said state Representative Kara Hope (D-Holt). “Shamefully, threats of violence against election workers have increased and have caused many to leave the work altogether. Now, with these bills signed into law, the people who make sure our elections run smoothly will be able to carry out their duties without fear of intimidation.”
Senate Bill 505, sponsored state Senator Dayna Polehanki, would prescribe a maximum felony penalty of five years for individuals engaging in activity that would prevent or prohibit election workers from doing their jobs.
“Of the 13 known places in Michigan where election clerks were allegedly intimidated into providing access to voting equipment after the 2020 election — two were in my Senate district,” said state Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia). “This is why Rep. Hope and I passed legislation that would provide penalties for intimidating election officials or preventing them from performing their duties. With the Governor signing these bills, we now have important safeguards that protect our democracy.”
Improving Election Efficiency
Senate Bill 385, sponsored by state Senator Erika Geiss, amends Michigan Election Law making it easier for Michiganders to participate in the Democratic process as an election inspector by allowing them to file an application online, which will also save counties, cities, and townships money on paperwork.
“This legislation is necessary to expand access for those who wish to serve as a precinct election inspector,” said state Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). “In the digital age, it is reasonable to allow folks to apply electronically. Election inspectors play a vital role on Election Day as they are witnesses to its integrity and are on the front lines of protecting democracy. Removing barriers and increasing accessibility to this position will promote transparency and fairness on Election Day.”
“At the heart of our democracy is the essential right to vote. Today, with House Bills 4983 and 4695, we’re making it easier to exercise that right,” said state Representative Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing). “These bills speak to our collective responsibility to uphold the democratic values that define us. Automatic voter registration means less hassle for anyone who’s eligible, and letting young voices count without the risk of leaving would-be first-time voters behind. We also want to meet people where they’re at, and early voting means greater flexibility and accessibility for all, meaning more people participating — and a stronger democracy because of it. It’s not just policy; it’s about ensuring our democracy remains fair, accessible, and secure. Let’s celebrate this moment when our state affirmed its commitment to be a government for the people, and to be a place where every voice matters.”
House Bill 4569, sponsored by state Representative Betsy Coffia, allows for preregistration of an applicant that is at least 16 years old but not older than 17 and a half, so that the Secretary of State can process their voter registration in that eligible election year.
“Allowing young people to pre-register to vote — particularly while they’re learning about civics and the democratic process in school — will undoubtedly increase participation in our elections by ensuring when they are legally eligible to vote at 18, they will be all set to become a lifelong voter,” said State Representative Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City). “Michigan will join a growing list of states that allow voter pre-registration, and I’m proud to see it signed into law.”
Senate Bill 594, sponsored by state Senator Jeremy Moss will expand voter registration options for citizens by allowing folks to register to vote using the last four digits of their social security number which is commonly used as a secure method in other areas of government.
House Bills 4983, 4984, 4985, and 4986 further expands Michigan’s automatic voter registration process. House Bill 4983 requires the Secretary of State to register any person who applies for a license or ID card who is eligible to register to vote and to send that applicant a notice of registration with an instruction on how to decline that registration. It gives the Secretary the power to designate a state agency as an automatic voter registration agency if that agency routinely collects information from individuals that would confirm their eligibility to register to vote. It also requires DHHS to transmit voter-eligibility information received from Medicaid applicants for purposes of registration, allows Indian nations and tribes to request approval to submit voter-eligibility information to the Secretary for purposes of registration, and requires the Secretary of State and Michigan Department of Corrections to coordinate to ensure eligible individuals are registered to vote when released from incarceration. House Bills 4984, 4985, and 4986 clarify the process for individuals who wish to decline their automatic registration. The bills will take effect June 30, 2025.
“House Bill 4984 and the entire bill package marks a crucial step forward in eliminating roadblocks that hamstring the fundamental right of Americans to register to vote and take part in our democratic republic, said state Representative Phil Skaggs. “By refining automatic registration procedures and empowering individuals to easily opt out if they choose, these bills exemplify a commitment to both accessibility and choice in our democratic process. These bills streamline the registration process and prioritize the safeguarding of voter information, maintaining the integrity of our electoral system and promoting a robust exercise of democratic rights for all eligible citizens. Such measures signify progress towards a more inclusive, accountable, and responsive voting infrastructure.”
“The cornerstone of democracy is the voice of the people, and today, with the signing of House Bill 4985 into law, we’ve fortified this foundational principle,” said state Representative Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing). “Citizens have the right to participate in our democracy, and this is the next step in ensuring voter accessibility and eliminating unnecessary obstacles. Today, we’ve taken another step toward a more inclusive, secure and vibrant democracy that truly represents the will of the people.”
“My bill is about making sure Michiganders have easier and more convenient ways to register to vote,” said state Representative Jimmie Wilson, Jr. (D-Ypsilanti), sponsor of HB 4986. “Through the Secretary of State, an application for an enhanced license or enhanced state ID card can automatically be used as a voter registration application. This package of bills will increase access to voter registration and Michiganders’ participation in democracy.”
Senate Bill 529, sponsored by state Senator Jeremy Moss, brings Michigan into compliance with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act by updating the election canvassing and certification process. It provides clear guidance on how and when the governor must issue a certificate of ascertainment containing the results of a presidential election, and it also protects eligible voters from having their ballots rejected because of mistakes made by election officials.
“No state was more scrutinized during the 2020 presidential election than Michigan. Michiganders proved to be resilient and turned out in record numbers, and our election process proved to be secure and correctly tallied the will of voters,” said state Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). “Heading into 2024, we must build upon the successes of our voting administration — both by making it easier for voters to participate in the election and harder for conspiracy theorists to attempt to damage the certified result. With these bills signed into law, we are approaching the next presidential election with even stronger confidence in our system.”
Senate Bill 590 and 591, sponsored by state Senator Mary Cavanaugh, clarify the process and grounds by which judicial relief may be sought from the board of state canvassers’ certification of a presidential election.
“Protecting the rights of voters and the integrity of our elections is core to our democracy,” said state Senator Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township). “Senate Bills 590 & 591 strengthen Michigan’s election laws by outlining a clear legal pathway for post-certification contests without delaying the democratic process. I’m proud to have introduced this important legislation establishing a clear procedure for future candidates and elections in Michigan.”
Senate Bill 570, sponsored by state Senator Mallory McMorrow, prohibits a county clerk from conducting an election audit if the clerk is serving as an officer, member, or precinct delegate of a political party. Instead, the clerk would have to appoint a designee who is not similarly disqualified.
“The signing of these bills, including Senate Bill 570, is a crucial step toward respecting the will of the voters as part of our implementation of Prop 2,” said state Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak). “By requiring election officials to step down from their official role in a county political party or appoint a designee for conducting audits, this bill ensures voters can have the confidence their votes are counted with nothing but accuracy in mind.”
Use of Artificial Intelligence to Influence Elections
House Bill 5141, sponsored by state Representative Penelope Tsernoglou, requires political advertisements generated in whole or substantially with the use of artificial intelligence to include a statement that the advertisement was generated by artificial intelligence.
House Bills 5143, sponsored by state Representative Matthew Bierlein, defines “artificial intelligence” under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.
“Artificial Intelligence is a rapidly evolving technology. As we go forward, it’s going to have an even greater impact on our elections process and how people consume political information leading up to elections,” said state Representative Matthew Bierlein (R-Vassar). “Transparency is crucial as this technology moves forward and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on a bipartisan package to address these evolving concerns.”
House Bill 5144, sponsored by state Representative Penelope Tsernoglou, makes it a crime for a person to knowingly distribute materially deceptive media generated by artificial intelligence if they do so with the intent of harming the reputation or electoral prospects of a candidate in an election occurring within 90 days and deceiving voters into falsely believing that the depicted individual engaged in the fake speech or conduct, and the distribution is reasonably likely to have that result.
“In the ever-evolving landscape of political campaigns, today’s signing of House Bills 5141 and 5144 underscores our commitment to upholding the integrity of our democratic process,” said state Representative Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing). “As artificial intelligence becomes more intertwined with political advertising, it’s crucial that we safeguard the truth in our elections. In an era where trust in our democratic institutions is paramount, these measures champion honesty and transparency — the bedrock principles of our democracy. Let’s continue working towards an electoral system where every voter is empowered by the truth and where our democracy stands firmly against deception.”
House Bill 5145, sponsored by Representative Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), adds a felony sentencing guideline for a person who violates House Bill 5144 more than once within five years.