Ballot proposal launched to protect voting access in Michigan

Jan 31, 2022 at 12:31 pm
click to enlarge Election sign in Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Election sign in Detroit.

Voting rights advocates launched a ballot initiative Monday that would create a constitutional amendment to protect and extend access to the polls.

The goal is to collect enough signatures to place Promote the Vote on the November ballot.

The initiative comes as Republicans collect signatures on a competing petition drive that election officials and voting-rights advocates say will make it more difficult to vote.

Promote the Vote calls for nine days of early voting, secure drop boxes, ballot tracking, public funding for postage on absentee ballots, and additional time for military and overseas voters to return their absentee ballots. The initiative would also allow voters to request an absentee ballot for all future elections.

“Michigan voters have been clear: They want accessible and secure elections, which means being able to make their voices heard at the ballot box and being confident that their vote will be counted,” Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, said at a news conference Monday. “This proposal takes a great steps toward modernizing our elections and protecting our freedom to vote. And importantly, this proposal will ensure that elections will be determined solely by the voters of Michigan.”

A lot is at stake. The GOP initiative, Secure MI Vote, is intended to enable Republican state lawmakers to circumvent a veto from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. A peculiarity in Michigan’s constitution allows the Legislature to bypass the governor and approve a law if more than 340,000 voters — or at least 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election — sign a petition to create a ballot initiative, even if it ultimately fails at the polls.

A record 3.3 million Michigan residents voted by absentee in the 2020 general election. But if Republicans are successful, absentee voting would become more difficult.

The Republican initiative would bar the secretary of state and clerks from sending unsolicited ballot applications, as was done in 2020. Absentee voters would also be required to submit a photocopy of their driver’s license or state ID or the last four digits of their social security number to request a ballot.

To cast a ballot in person, voters would be required to show their driver’s license or state ID. Under the current law, voters who don’t have access to a photo ID can sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. The GOP initiative would ban the use of affidavits and instead require voters to sign a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if voters present their ID to their local clerk’s office within six days of the election.

Under the initiative launched Monday, voters would still be allowed to cast a ballot without an ID if they sign an affidavit, and clerks would be able to send absentee voters a ballot more easily.

"Our goal is simple — to continue building a voting system that works for everyone in Michigan," said Khalilah Spencer, president of the Promote the Vote board.

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