Initiatives for preserving voter rights in Michigan barrels towards ballot

Janeen Stephenson, far left with Promote the Vote and Paul Goetsch, far right, with Reproductive Freedom for All collecting signatures at the Hancock farmers market on June 30

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An effort to lock certain voting rights in the Michigan Constitution has taken a major step toward the fall ballot, eclipsing a rival campaign led by Republicans to limit absentee voting and add other restrictions.

Promote The Vote, a coalition of 27 groups, submitted nearly 670,000 signatures Monday. While the signatures still must be validated by election officials, the petitions contain about 245,000 more names than necessary to qualify for the Nov. 8 election.

The ballot question would expand voter rights by allowing nine days of in-person early voting, state-funded absentee ballot postage and drop boxes in every community.

Promote The Vote is the same coalition that helped pass no-reason absentee voting and same-day voter registration in 2018.

Khalilah Spencer, president of Promote The Vote, said the campaign “observed the 2020 election, and even the 2018 election, and we see where there could be improvements.”

In addition to increased access to early voting, the constitutional amendment would require 24-hour absentee ballot drop boxes in every community. Voters could also join a permanent list to have absentee ballots sent for every election.

It would also require that election audits be conducted in public by state and county officials and that elections be certified based only on the official records of votes cast.

Some portions are already in Michigan law, but the state has seen attempts at “manipulating the language in that law and we want to make sure we close those loopholes,” Spencer said.

Republicans for months have made clear their intention to pass voting restrictions in the GOP-controlled Legislature by collecting enough signatures to bypass a certain veto by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The measure would implement tighter ID requirements for in-person and absentee voting and stop the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Jamie Roe, spokesperson for the Secure MI Vote measure, said the group plans to submit signatures “very soon,” but he acknowledged that it would die if voters in November approve the Promote The Vote proposal.

Secure MI Vote organizers skipped a June 1 deadline to get on the fall ballot, with Roe telling The Associated Press that the group believed “the initiative will pass the Legislature and not even make it on the ballot so the June deadline was artificial to us.”


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