LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday aimed at preventing eleventh-hour party defections from skewing an election.
The bill comes after it became known that Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) had agreed to pay a man to fill the Democratic spot on the election ballot opposite him after abruptly switching parties in May.
Schmidt's move, which Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth called an "ill-conceived and poorly-executed plan" that was "clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a 'fraud' on the electorate," was not illegal.
The bill passed in the House Wednesday, House Bill 4907, would attempt to prevent a similar debacle.
It would give a party a two-day extension to put up a non-incumbent candidate if a candidate withdraws at the last minute, like Schmidt did, and leave the ballot blank for an office.
If that law had been in place this spring, it would have given Democrats time to find a replacement to put on the ballot for the 76th House District race.
That part of the the bill is an amendment sponsored by Rep. Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center) and Rep. Charles Smiley (R-Burton).
"The whole elections process in Michigan has come under scrutiny lately and many people, me included, have suggested that we need higher standards," said House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) -- who appeared to be complicit in the Schmidt party-switch -- in a Wednesday statement.
"Elections need to focus on voters, not opposition between parties," Bolger went on to say in the statement. "I'd like to express my thanks and commend Democrat Leader Rick Hammel for working in a bipartisan fashion to demonstrate that we should focus on delivering results for important election reform instead of partisan politics."
Schmidt told 24 Hour News 8's Leon Hendrix on Aug. 8 that he would support election reform to keep what happened from happening again.
The bill also extends deadlines for ballot questions so local clerks can prepare ballots more effectively and creates an extension for voting military absentee ballots of local clerks miss the deadline to send out those ballots.
This year, 70 township and city clerks in Michigan faced federal charges after they failed to meet the deadline to send absentee ballots to overseas military members, though a judge later allowed some leniency to count those votes.
There are some other election filing, special election and voting procedure changes in the law.
HB 4907 was passed unanimously in the House and now heads to the Senate.
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