Michigan House Democrats on Thursday approved legislation to strip away verification and validity measures specifically enacted to prevent election fraud.

Senate bills 603 and 604 eliminate the current ability of county canvassers to investigate fraud during recounts, limiting the basis for requesting a recount to errors that could sway the outcome.

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Proponents contend fraud investigations should be handled by law enforcement.

The legislation also increases fees for recounts based on the margin of victory.

“This fee structure includes per-precinct fees which charge less for precincts where the results are closer and more for precincts where the margin is so large that it is unlikely a recount could change the outcome,” Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, D-East Lansing, told Michigan Public Radio.

Other changes included in the bills deal with precincts where ballot counts are out of balance, making all ballots in those precincts ineligible to be recounted, according to the news site.

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Republican state Rep. Rachel Smit, a former elections clerk from Martin, condemned the legislation for removing necessary checks and balances she said are critical for ensuring faith in election outcomes.

“It’s not a crime – or at least it shouldn’t be – to practice skepticism,” Smit said in a floor speech. “This bill will eliminate what little trust citizens have left in our election systems, and for that reason I urge my colleagues to vote no on this package.”

All Republican representatives opposed, and both bills ultimately cleared the lower chamber with votes of 56-53. The bills previously passed the Senate on party-line votes in April. They were returned to the upper chamber for concurrence following Thursday’s votes.

Republicans held a press conference last week to highlight the bills and others they claim are dismantling the ability of election officials to administer fair and accurate elections, Michigan Advance reports.

“Whether you’re an independent, Democrat or Republican, this doesn’t help you,” state Sen. James Runestad, R-White Lake, said. “This kind of stuff is crafted to get an outcome for the people who are not transparent.”

Runestad and others also criticized the pending Michigan Voting Rights Act they contend goes far beyond federal standards to impose unreasonable requirements on clerks that expose them to legal liabilities.

“It is so draconian,” he said. “It is all kinds of things where the clerks could be sued if they don’t get equal outcomes for different groups and voting patterns. So this is the kind of thing that we’re dealing with in the Legislature.”

Former Michigan Secretary of State turned state Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, said last week the elections legislation from Democrats is the worst she’s seen during her tenure in the Legislature, according to the Advance.

“Methodically, they’re stripping away layer after layer of integrity in our elections, both by laws that are being passed through and by some of the past ballot initiatives that were very deceptive, and a lot of money was spent to make people think some of it was different than what it really was,” Johnson said. “You can go toe-to-toe on anything you want to fight with, but you shouldn’t deceive people. You’re just using them when you do that. People need to have a say. This is America.”

Those efforts in Lansing come as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson faces multiple lawsuits over her refusal to purge the state’s bloated voter rolls, her unconstitutional guidance to local election officials, and other issues.

On Wednesday, Judge Christopher P. Yates ruled that guidelines issued by Benson instructing clerks to use an “initial presumption of validity” in verifying absentee ballot signatures violated the Michigan Constitution.

“The Secretary of State and the Director of Elections possess powers and duties concerning election procedures, but their powers do not extend to the promulgation of rules that conflict with the Michigan Constitution or statutes enacted by our Legislature,” Yates wrote.

Michigan is expected to play a central role in the 2024 presidential election and polling shows a very tight race between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

Preventing fraud will be critical to ensure accurate results in November as Michigan currently has 8.1 million registered voters for a voting age population of 7.9 million, or 102.8% of the number of legal voters.

The voter rolls include some former residents who died more than 30 years ago, according to a recent investigation.

“I’m convinced all of this is being done because the Democrats have a hard time winning otherwise. If we’ve had the most safe and secure election that we’ve heard time and time again, the last couple of election cycles that we’ve had, then why are we doing all [this], the need to have these extreme laws enacted that significantly weaken the security and integrity of our elections,” Smit said last week. “Democrats continue to introduce legislation to strip away safeguards to provide checks and balances. … Michigan voters deserve confidence in our elections.”