Michigan Senate Democrats on Tuesday approved legislation to double the cost of election recounts, and remove the ability of county canvassers to investigate “fraud or illegal voting.”

The changes in Senate Bill 603, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, essentially “sanction the potential legal ability to cheat on elections in Michigan,” argued Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake.

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“SB603 repeals current law that gives authority to bipartisan county Boards of Canvassers to investigate fraud and other wrongdoing including ballot tampering during recounts,” Runestad posted to X on Tuesday.

“With the passage of their (election-fraud-enabling) bill, there will be no future route for requesting a recount if you believe there was fraud. Under their corruption bill, candidates will be prohibited from requesting a recount if they suspect fraud and is designed to stop investigations of election fraud by the Board of Canvassers.”

The legislation, approved on a party-line vote of 20-18, restricts recounts to a focus on fixing “errors,” allows county officials to conduct recounts if clerk counts and physical ballots are “out of balance,”  doubles the fees for recounts to between $250 and $500, and changes the threshold for triggering an automatic recount, Bridge Michigan reports.

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“We make clear that a recount is a simple retabulation of the ballots – NOT an investigation or an audit,” Chang posted to X. “We have other laws and procedures for that. The bills also modernize the fees for recount petitions so that clerks can actually cover the cost of recounts!”

“All in all, these bills bring greater clarity to our recount law, will help ensure that voters’ voices are heard and strengthen our democratic process,” Chang wrote.

At least one Republican in the Senate with actual experience managing the state’s elections adamantly disagrees.

“Senate Bill 603 ends the ability of local officials to investigate potential fraud, illegal activity, or even ballot tampering during a recount by deleting current provisions in Michigan election law that give this authority to bipartisan county boards of canvassers,” Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, Michigan’s former Secretary of State, said in a statement.

“These are time-honored checks and balances that exist in our system,” Johnson said. “Boards of canvassers by definition are bipartisan, with two Democrat and two Republican members, to provide fairness in oversight of our elections.”

Johnson argued that taking away the right to investigate fraud during a recount erodes the public’s faith in the electoral process.

“Right now, Michigan has 104.5% of our state’s voting-age population registered to vote. No photo ID is required to vote,” Johnson said. “We have no system to tell if someone votes in multiple states and the current secretary of state failed to remove 170,000 names from the voting rolls of people who no longer lived in the state until after she was sued.”

SB 603 moves to the state House, where Democrats regained a majority through special elections last month. Whether the legislation, if approved, will take effect before the November presidential election remains unclear.

“The proposed overhaul of Michigan’s recount law with several months until the presidential election garnered unified GOP opposition, limiting the chances it could take effect before the contest if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a chance to sign it into law,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

President Joe Biden won Michigan’s 16 electoral votes in 2020 by a 154,188 vote margin, among the slimmest in the nation. The Great Lakes swing state is expected to be pivotal in 2024, with well over 100,000 “uncommitted” Democrats opposing Biden during the February primary and a current polling average from 538 that gives Trump a 1.4 point advantage.