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Ron Weiser, Michigan Republican Party chairman and University of Michigan regent, is the primary funder for an ongoing campaign to create new voter identification requirements in Michigan. Specifically, the disclosure revealed an $80,000 debt owed to Weiser, which may eventually be forgiven. The next largest contributions to the campaign were $250 each. 

These requirements are controversial, with many Republicans saying they prevent voter fraud and Democrats arguing that they inhibit people, especially racial minorities, from voting. Voter fraud, especially by impersonation, is exceedingly rare — studies from Arizona State University conducted in 2012 and 2016 found there were only 10 cases of impersonation across the country between 2000 and 2012. 

According to a funding disclosure released Tuesday, the group leading the campaign, Secure MI Vote, wants to require voters to present photo identification to cast their ballots in person. The Detroit News reported that the group raised $85,618 from July 21 through Oct. 26, 93% of which is now known to come from a loan from Weiser. 

Secure MI Vote was formed in December, according to campaign finance disclosures. Paul Cordes, Weiser’s chief of staff at the MI GOP, was the group’s initial treasurer, though Cordes is no longer listed as being involved in this group.

Currently, Michigan law requires voters to either provide a photo ID or sign an affidavit confirming they do not have an ID to cast an in-person ballot on Election Day. Those who apply via mail for an absentee ballot must submit a form with a handwritten signature to verify that their application is accurate, which is then verified by the state.

Secure MI Vote wants to change this law to mandate all people voting in-person in Michigan  present a photo ID at the polls and require absentee voters to submit the last four digits of their Social Security number, their driver’s license number or their state personal ID number. 

Weiser announced at a meeting with the North Oakland Republican Club in March that the MI GOP was looking to combine election bills proposed in the House and Senate for a petition initiative that lawmakers could enact without Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer being able to veto the changes. 

The committee is able to put this proposal before the Michigan state legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans, if they collect 340,047 petition signatures. If Michigan lawmakers approve the proposal, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would have no say and would not be able to block it. In recent weeks, Whitmer vetoed a series of GOP-backed election reform bills. 

Under this proposal, those without photo ID at the polls would have to cast a provisional ballot, which are used to record a vote when there are questions about a given voter’s eligibility that must be resolved. Voters must then return within six days to verify their identities for the votes to count. 

Secure MI Vote is also seeking to impose a ban on election officials sending out absentee ballot applications unless voters specifically request the applications, after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) sent absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million registered voters for the presidential election in May 2020. 

After former President Donald Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in November 2020 — an election with a larger than usual number of absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic —  unsubstantiated claims that widespread election fraud was the cause of this defeat were circulated. Many Republican lawmakers in Michigan and other states reacted by pushing for changes to election law this year. 

Daily Staff Reporter Paige Hodder can be reached at phodder@umich.edu