Initiative to expand voting access OK’d for Michigan ballot
DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Michigan voters this fall will decide if the state should allow same-day registration, no-reason absentee ballots and straight-ticket voting after the certification Thursday of a third and final initiative for the statewide ballot.
The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers unanimously voted to approve the ballot measure after being told by the elections bureau that the Promote the Vote group had collected an estimated 321,000 signatures, more than the minimum 315,000 needed. The move finalized which measures will appear on the November ballot, a day after the Republican-led Legislature adopted minimum wage and paid sick day proposals rather than let them get a public vote.
In addition to the proposed constitutional amendment to expand voter registration and voting options, voters also will determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use and whether to alter the state constitution so that an independent commission , instead of the Legislature, draws Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts in a bid to curtail partisan gerrymandering.
Promote the Vote, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the League of Women Voters and the state and local branches of the NAACP, said its initiative would make voting more accessible and secure. A federal appeals court late Wednesday revived the state’s 2016 ban on straight-party voting , which means voters in November must go line by line if they want to vote for candidates in partisan races. In the past, a single mark could automatically count for candidates of a single party, from governor to county commissioner.
“To tell voters in Michigan who have some of the longest wait times, ‘You’ll have to wait longer and it’s not a big deal,’ is I think disappointing to the people who support a process that works for everyone,” said Promote the Vote campaign director Todd Cook.
The ballot measure would reinstate the straight-ticket voting option. It also would:
— let people cast an absentee ballot without giving a reason. Absentee voters currently must be at least 60 years old, be out of town when the polls are open or be unable to vote on Election Day due to a physical disability, religious tenets or incarceration.
— allow citizens to register by mail closer to Election Day — 15 days or more out — and in person at any time, including on Election Day. People now must register at least 30 days before an election.
— automatically register people when they conduct business with the secretary of state regarding a driver’s license or state ID card, unless they decline to be registered.
— lock into the constitution laws already in place such as sending absentee ballots to military or overseas voters at least 45 days before an election, ensuring secret ballots and auditing election results.
While a newly formed ballot committee whose treasurer helps Republicans, Protect My Vote, challenged some signatures, it is unclear if it will spend money urging voters to oppose the initiative. GOP secretary of state nominee Mary Treder Lang criticized the measure at the Republican convention less than two weeks ago.
She said some provisions are duplicative and contended that same-day voter registration would burden clerks and not allow them to make sure people pass “smell tests” that come with trying to register and vote on the same day.
Cook said people registering on the same day as an election would have to provide proof of residency in person to a clerk with real-time access to the qualified voter file.
“These are just scare tactics that folks bring up time and time again,” he said.