Michigan SOS urges state lawmakers to pass bills to make voting easier, not harder

Mar 22, 2021 at 1:36 pm
click to enlarge Polling station in Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Polling station in Detroit.

As Republicans in most states consider bills to make it harder to vote, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Monday urged lawmakers to expand access to the ballot box.

“Michigan voters elected me because I promised to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Michigan elections,” Benson said in a statement. “And that’s exactly what I did in the 2020 elections, which saw millions of voters utilize new expanded voting rights, and was audited more than any election in state history.”

Democrats have introduced bills that would make it easier to vote, but the legislation has been stalled by Republicans, who hold the majority in the state House and Senate.

One bill would require clerks to send absentee ballot applications to all voters and maintain a permanent voter application list. Another would allow absentee ballot processing up to 22 days before the election. Under another bill, voters would be able to fix signature errors on absentee ballots and applications.

“I’m grateful to the two dozen state lawmakers who have sponsored bills that further the will of Michigan voters, and it’s time for legislative leaders to move them forward,” Benson said. “All voters deserve convenient and equal access to their right to vote absentee. Clerks deserve time and support to process absentee ballots in the days leading up to Election Day so that we have results shortly after polls close. And a post-election audit should be conducted before results are certified.”

Michigan is among 43 states where Republicans have introduced bills that would restrict ballot access, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. They are justifying their actions by repeating false and discredited claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

“In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year,” the report states.

Republicans in the Michigan House are considering a bill that would prune the state’s official voter list by removing voters who have not responded to a mailing notifying them that they either haven’t voted since November 2000 or that the Secretary of State’s department doesn’t have a birthdate on file.

Michigan’s measures are less restrictive than many other states. In Georgia, for example, the state House passed a bill in February that would all but eliminate Sunday voting, which is a long tradition in the Black community. The bill also would restrict drop boxes, require more ID to vote absentee and criminalize handing out water and food to people waiting in line.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.