Nothing To See Here: Michigan’s Voter Rolls Outnumber Adult Voters 

Niyazz /
Niyazz /

This November, Michigan emerges as a pivotal battleground, offering 15 electoral votes to the victor. Current polls show a tight race, with former president Donald Trump leading President Joe Biden by a narrow 46.5 to 43.0 margin. Moreover, the shifting political landscape could see a reshuffle in the House of Representatives, with several seats poised for a possible turnover. The stakes are increased by an open Senate seat up for grabs, previously held by retiring Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow. 

But there’s trouble in Michigan, the Republican National Committee says. Michigan is hedging its bets by leaving ineligible voters on the rolls and rife for the picking by President Joe Biden. Fifty-three Michigan counties have more active registered voters than their adult population over 18, which the RNC characterized as “impossibly high.” Additionally, 23 more counties have voter registration rates surpassing 90 percent of their adult population, exceeding national and statewide averages.  

These claims raise concerns about potential discrepancies that might affect the integrity of future elections, and the RNC has filed a lawsuit against Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for violating the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by not maintaining accurate voter records. 

It’s not the first time Michigan has violated the NRVA, however. In 2020, a similar case was dismissed. At the time, voter records showed 15 counties with registration rates above 90% and one with a registration rate of more than 100% of the area’s total voting-age population. 

Section 8 of the NVRA outlines states’ obligations in managing voter registration. This includes states’ need to establish methods that ensure their voter registration lists are current and precise. Furthermore, Section 8 authorizes states to cancel a voter’s registration at the individual’s request or due to specific legal circumstances, such as mental incapacity or criminal conviction, if allowed by state law. 

The law also mandates that states enforce a list management program that removes individuals no longer eligible to vote in a state due to death or relocation outside the voting district. This program must be conducted fairly, without discrimination, and adhere to the Voting Rights Act’s standards, according to a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet on the NVRA. 

Following the 2020 election, Michigan made a few appeasements that indicated the state was on board with cleaning up its voter rolls. The Secretary of State announced 177,000 cancellations of voter registrations for individuals who had either moved out of state or whose election-related mail was undeliverable before the 2018 election. Additionally, the Bureau of Elections would share any absentee ballot applications from the 2020 election that were returned as undeliverable with local clerks. According to the Electronic Registration Information Center, Michigan also planned to send verification notices to those registered in other states. These actions led the plaintiffs of the 2020 lawsuit to dismiss their claim voluntarily. 

Unfortunately, per the RNC, the situation has worsened since the initial case was dropped. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, dismissed the lawsuit as a “groundless attack on the integrity of the electoral system.” She criticized it as a “publicity stunt disguised as a lawsuit,” filled with “unfounded allegations designed to undermine public trust in the security of elections.” 

And, of course, it’s an attack on democracy. “Shame on anyone who abuses the legal process to sow seeds of doubt in our democracy,” Benson said in response to the RNC’s suit. 

Michigan Democrats have little reason to purge voter registration rolls because the skewed registrations have served them well up until now. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden secured victory in Michigan with a narrow margin of approximately 2.78% over Donald Trump, clinching 50.62% of the popular vote compared to Trump’s 47.84%.  

Moving forward to the 2022 midterm elections in Michigan, Democrats celebrated significant successes. Governor Gretchen Whitmer was successfully re-elected, while Democrats Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel retained their positions as Secretary of State and Attorney General, respectively. In House races, Democrats claimed victories in key districts, with Hillary Scholten securing the 3rd District and Elissa Slotkin retaining her seat in the 7th District.  

Furthermore, Michigan voters showed support for various ballot initiatives, including Proposal 3, which solidifies abortion rights within the state constitution. 

Considering Biden’s narrow 2020 victory, Democrats are understandably worried that Michigan may be forced to remove inactive voters from its registration rolls. This could restrict their chances of “gaining votes” in a state known for its unpredictable swings between political parties.