Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a wide-ranging election bills package aimed at improving election efficiency, increasing voter registration opportunities, and protecting equal access to the ballot box.

“Today, we are expanding voting rights and strengthening our democracy,” said Governor Whitmer. “By banning deepfakes and AI in campaign advertisements, criminalizing violence towards election workers, and allowing souls to get to the polls, we are making our sure every Michigander’s vote is cast and counted.”

Regulating Artificial Intelligence

As part of the legislation package, Gov. Whitmer signed House Bills 5141, 1543, 1544, and 1545, which will regulate the use of AI during the election process.

House Bill 1541 requires political advertisements generated in whole or substantially with the use of artificial intelligence to include a statement that the advertisement was generated by artificial intelligence.

House Bill 5143 defines “artificial intelligence” under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

“Artificial intelligence is a rapidly evolving technology. As we go forward, it’s going to have an even greater impact on our elections process and how people consume political information leading up to elections,” said Republican state Representative Matthew Bierlein. “Transparency is crucial as this technology moves forward and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on a bipartisan package to address these evolving concerns.”

House Bill 1544 makes it a crime for a person to knowingly distribute materially deceptive media generated by AI if they do so with the intent of harming the reputation or electoral prospects of a candidate in an election occurring within 90 days and deceiving voters into falsely believing that the depicted individual engaged in the fake speech or conduct, and the distribution is reasonably likely to have that result.

“In the ever-evolving landscape of political campaigns, today’s signing of House Bills 5141 and 5144 underscores our commitment to upholding the integrity of our democratic process,” said Democrat state Representative Penelope Tsernoglou. “As artificial intelligence becomes more intertwined with political advertising, it’s crucial that we safeguard the truth in our elections. In an era where trust in our democratic institutions is paramount, these measures champion honesty and transparency – the bedrock principles of our democracy. Let’s continue working towards an electoral system where every voter is empowered by the truth and where our democracy stands firmly against deception.”

House Bill 5145 adds a felony sentencing guideline for a person who violates House Bill 5144 more than once within five years.

Improving Election Efficiency

Gov. Whitmer also signed Senate Bill 385, which amends Michigan Election Law making it easier for Michiganders to participate in the Democratic process as an election inspector by allowing them to file an application online. The state says the bill will also save counties, cities, and townships money on paperwork.

“This legislation is necessary to expand access for those who wish to serve as a precinct election inspector,” said Democrat state Senator Erika Geiss. “In the digital age, it is reasonable to allow folks to apply electronically. Election inspectors play a vital role on Election Day as they are witnesses to its integrity and are on the front lines of protecting democracy. Removing barriers and increasing accessibility to this position will promote transparency and fairness on Election Day.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs