Lily Bohlke – Michigan News Connection

Advocates for older Michiganders are voicing concerns about a petition that could add barriers to voting and even put a voter's personal information at risk.

The group "Secure MI Vote" is circulating a petition that would require people requesting an absentee ballot to share the last four digits of their Social Security or drivers' license number. It's a way to get around needing the governor's signature on legislation, since Michigan law says a petition can override a veto if it gets enough signatures from the public.

Paula Cunningham, AARP Michigan state director, said it's important, especially for seniors, not to give out that kind of personal information.

"If you look at the data and look at the numbers, they will see that identity theft is some of the number one crimes that exist today, and it is certainly on the uptick in Michigan," she said. "Who gets the most victimized by identity theft and fraud? Older adults."

The ballot measure's proponents have said requiring more personal information would make voting more secure, but Cunningham noted that audits of the 2020 election - including by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate - found no evidence of widespread fraud under the current rules.

Cunningham added that more than 60% of the 3.3 million absentee votes cast in 2020 in Michigan were by people age 50 or older.

"The legislators, those are the influencers who will finally make this decision," she said. "So, contact them and tell them to vote 'no' on any proposal that creates new barriers to absentee voting, and increases someone's risk of identity theft."

Last month, the U.S. Senate blocked a pair of federal voting-rights bills -- the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act -- that would have expanded nationwide access to absentee voting, among other changes to the election code. Voting-rights advocates have said the lack of federal action is disappointing, but won't stop their efforts to change laws at the local level and to educate and register voters.