(The Center Square) – Michigan’s process of handling election recounts and fraud allegations has changed, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signing two controversial bills into law Monday.

Senate bills 603 and 604 modify the requirements for conducting ballot recounts and prosecuting election-related crimes.

“Today, with the signing of our common-sense recount law reforms, we are strengthening our democracy and ensuring that we reach the most accurate count of the ballots possible during a recount process,” said sponsor state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit.

“These laws achieve critical goals of protecting the security of every vote, modernizing our recount process, and uplifting the voices of Michigan voters.”

Among other changes, the law will eliminate the board of canvasser’s investigative powers, instead requiring the board to refer any allegations of fraud to the relevant county prosecutor, rather than conducting a recount.

Only alleged errors could merit a recount, and only when the alleged errors could potentially change election results.

It will also increase the deposit for filing a recount petition, modify various guidelines for clerks, and change sentencing guidelines for election law violations.

“For years, clerks and candidates have demanded reforms and updates to Michigan’s 70-year-old recount law so every valid ballot can be subject to a recount in close races,” said state Senator Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who co-sponsored the bill with Chang.

“This legislation will strengthen the integrity of our voting systems and ensure the accuracy of election results.”

Opponents say eliminating the canvassers’ investigatory powers and scrapping protections against election worker interference will make fraud more difficult to address and compromise election security.

“Watering down protections is counterproductive when several red flags have arisen within the state’s elections process,” said Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond.

“For example, there being no system to tell if someone votes in multiple states, a real issue facing the state of Michigan as evidenced by the secretary of state removing some 170,000 people no longer living here from our voter rolls only after she was sued.”

The new laws are effective immediately and will apply to the August primary races.

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