Lansing, Michigan (AP) – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Friday rejected many Republican-requested changes to the rules that will guide voters in how to match the signatures of people who have applied for a lawyer’s vote.

Benson, a Democrat, accepted one recommended revision but rejected eight, saying the expected decisions were “based on facts, data and long-standing non-partisan standard election administration practices that support Michigan voters.” She said she would remove the language that instructs voters to believe the signature is valid and authentic.

Benson began the rulemaking process in 2021 after a state judge invalidate signature verification standards she gave to local clerks a month before the 2020 presidential election. The judge said the leadership was a rule that had to go through a formal process.

Michigan law says a voter’s signature must “sufficiently agree” with what is on file, but does not specify. The rules, which Republican lawmakers may postpone until the November election but do not stop, will tell election officials to consider whether there are “redemptive qualities” between the two signatures. These include similar traits, more matching traits than non-matching ones, and whether the voter’s hand seems to have trembled or trembled.

The rules also require officials to consider explanations for differences in signatures, such as aging, minor changes over time, and the use of initials.

Benson said the rules codify recommendations the state election bureau has given over the years, including in the term of her Republican predecessor, when clerks ask how to do a signature comparison. But Republican activists along with Republicans in the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules said the rules allow for counting invalid, forged signatures amid rising absentee voting in the last election.

There is not proof widespread fraud.

“The people of Michigan voted overwhelmingly in the 2018 election to enshrine their right to vote in absentia in our state constitution, and I will not allow a small group of lawmakers to restrict these rights to spread and codify long-debunked conspiracy theories,” Benson said.

She also rejected the commission’s proposed changes to the rules concerning online applications for advocacy, which she had made available to voters starting in 2020. Republicans questioned the possibility of allowing people to use a saved digital signature or download their own version instead of signing in ink.

MP Luke Mirman, a member of the Republican committee from Coopersville, welcomed Benson’s decision to overturn the presumption of signatures, saying “we are doing this so that people can believe in the election process in Michigan.”

Another member of the Republican commission, MP Steve Carr of the Three Rivers, said Benson had “changed course a bit”. But, without stopping online applications for absenteeism, he said she “ignores state law, which explicitly requires voters to sign any applications for absentee elections so that election officials can confirm their identity.”

The next group has 15 session days to object to the rules and introduce legislation that will delay their entry into force for 270 days. Democratic Gov. Whitmer is likely to veto any such bill, meaning the rules will eventually take effect.

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