Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s Bureau of Elections is resisting efforts to rid the state’s bloated voter rolls of the potential for fraud ahead of the 2024 election.

In Michigan and other battleground states, local and national groups are asking election officials to remove registered voters who have died or moved in an effort to eliminate the potential for fraud. There’s about 300,000 more registered voters in Michigan than legal voters, while more than 600,000 registrations are awaiting cancellation.

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But when election officials in Genoa and Waterford townships removed about 1,100 voters based on mail forwarding requests to the U.S. Postal Service, the Benson’s Bureau of Elections reversed the move and issued a six-page letter to the state’s 1,600 clerks about voter registration challenges.

“Any effort to improperly challenge voter registrations in Michigan and other states is a coordinated attack against democracy and an active attempt to disenfranchise voters,” Cheri Hardmon, a spokesperson for Benson’s office, told The ‘Gander in a statement this week.

The Bureau of Elections argues election laws prevent officials from removing inactive voter registrations, pointing to federal rules that require two election cycles before cancelation without personal contact from the voter.

“If somebody’s making one of these challenges, we want to make sure that no voter gets canceled unless they’re getting the legally entitled process,” Michigan Elections Director Jonathan Brater told reporters Wednesday, according Bridge Michigan.

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The process is part of the reason Michigan has 8.1 million registered voters for a voting age population of 7.9 million, or 102.8% of the number of legal voters. Supporters of former President Donald Trump raised concerns about how the discrepancy could create fraud with mail-in voting as early as mid-2020.

Local elections officials told Bridge at the time the bloated voter rolls undermine public confidence in elections, whether the situation actually leads to fraud or not.

“The cleaner you get it, the better,” Walker clerk Sarah Bydalek said.

There’s currently 625,913 registrations slated to be canceled in the coming years – 531,877 in 2025 and another 94,036 in 2027, according to election data cited by Bridge. But rather than work to eliminate concerns about election integrity by vetting those registrations, Brater vows to ensure they won’t be removed until they time out.

“We’re certainly going to be monitoring any activity in the voter file that looks unusual to make sure that there aren’t undue challenges that are being processed without the voter getting their legally entitled protections,” he said.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, is working with Check My Vote to encourage local clerks to clean up voter rolls. Other groups including Cleta Mitchell’s Election Integrity Network, True the Vote and others are pursuing similar efforts and recruiting poll workers elsewhere.

Mitchell, an attorney who investigated potential fraud in 2020, pushed back on claims those efforts are aimed at disenfranchising voters when contacted by the New York Times.

“The only persons ‘disenfranchised’ by following the law are the illegal voters, whose illegal registrations suppress and dilute the votes of those who are lawfully registered,” she wrote in an email. “Our primary goal is to see that the laws of the states are followed and enforced by those sworn to administer the elections according to applicable law.”

Mitchell is chair of the board for the Public Interest Legal Foundation that sued Benson in 2021 for alleged violations of the National Voter Registration Act for refusing to remove registrations for about 27,000 dead voters.

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering on Friday dismissed the lawsuit, writing in a 31-page order “the record demonstrates that deceased voters are removed from Michigan’s voter rolls on a regular and ongoing basis.”

Despite Michigan’s status as the only Great Lakes state with more registered voters than legal voters, Benson celebrated the court ruling, arguing state and local election officials have “done more work than ever before to increase the accuracy of our voter registration records and ensure the security and accuracy of our elections.”