Opinion | Enforce the law to protect Michigan voting rights

Christina Schlitt

Christina Schlitt is the president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan

Michigan voters in 2018 overwhelmingly passed Proposal 3, which expanded voting rights and increased access to the ballot including removing barriers to absentee voting, allowing every registered voter to vote an absentee ballot if they choose. 

Now we need leaders to enforce the law and make sure the will of the people is respected and carried out. 

The Michigan League of Women Voters recently filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State to make sure what voters approved in 2018 is enforced. 

The stakes are high: Non-enforcement of the law could easily cause the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Michigan voters. 

The Michigan League of Women Voters was a major force in advocating for Proposal 3. We believe our election laws must be strictly enforced to ensure fair access to voting, especially during a global pandemic when many people will understandably choose to vote by mail rather than go to the polls. Michigan should join 11 other states that count absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day; these states have already demonstrated it can work. 

Without consistent enforcement of Proposal 3, unconstitutional barriers continue to hamper participation in the democratic process. 

Our lawsuit supports several items voters approved in 2018 to expand absentee voting rights, including:  

  • Requiring local clerks to count absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day 
  • Requiring clerks to process absentee ballot applications within 24 hours 
  • Making absentee ballots available to voters 40 days prior to Election Day
  • Requiring the state of Michigan, not the voters, to pay for the postage incurred by returning a ballot. 

Our most recent lawsuit to remove barriers to absentee voting is just one part of our continued mission to advance democracy for every Michigan voter. If barriers to absentee voting are not removed, many voters will be excluded from our upcoming August and November elections. 

The League of Women Voters in Michigan has a long history of advancing all voters right to participate in our democracy. We have been the lead plaintiff on several important voting rights lawsuits, including a 2017 case against the state of Michigan to end unfair gerrymandering in the state. In 2018, we worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Michigan State Conference of the NAACP to launch the Promote the Vote ballot proposal campaign for Proposal 3, which reduced barriers to voting for working families.  

Along with the help of other groups, we successfully collected more than 315,600 signatures on petitions that allowed for the constitutional amendments that expanded absentee voting rights. 

The League also advocates for and supports reforms in lobbying and campaign finance, among many others. We were also a fierce supporter of People Powered Fair Maps which is the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for years and is Proposal 2 in 2018, a constitutional amendment establishing an impartial commission of voters who will be charged with creating new district maps for state and congressional offices that cannot favor one party or candidate. 

Proposal 3 needs to be implemented and enacted the way it was written, and the way voters approved it. This will ensure every Michigan voter has an equal chance to make their voice heard on Election Day and make sure the will of the people is carried out.

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Kevin Grand
Thu, 06/11/2020 - 10:44am

Exactly who are these "disenfranchised" voters that are constantly bandied about?

Voting is an important responsibility for Americans.

If you cannot be bothered to educate yourself on the most fundamental aspect of that responsibility (obtaining a ballot), then how do you expect to vote for the best candidate this August?

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 2:04pm

It's the law in Michigan now. Anyone tampering with this right to vote violates federal law. It appears the the state to watch is Georgia. At least the last two elections were hindered to suppress certain voters.
Now that GA is in the spotlight, how will voting be handled? Thinking the angry old, fearful white folk feel threatened. Something to observe and learn from.

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 9:59am

I support no-reason absentee voting. I intend to take advantage of it in this election because I am over 60 and my husband has multiple pre-existing conditions that put him at extremely high risk from COVID-19.

However, I am deeply suspicious of the move by multiple city, township, and county clerks to send every registered voter in their area an application for an absentee ballot. Every adult in my household has received two so far, both of them inviting us to apply for ballots for either just the August primary or permanent absent voter status. The troubling thing is that we also received 2 applications for ballots for someone who hasn't lived at this address since 2015. I'm pretty sure that person changed their driver's license and voter registration to their new location in a different Michigan county. So far, they have received only one application for an absentee ballot at their new address. But there's plenty of time; we're less than halfway through June.

How much mischief could be created by having multiple applications for an absentee ballot filed, even if each one is filed by the actual (possibly forgetful or mistrustful) voter? How careful will our city, township, and county clerks have to be to not end up issuing multiple ballots to a single individual who is on the voting rolls at multiple addresses? Consider the thousands of Michigan voters who've moved since the last time the voter rolls were purged of inactive voters. Or just since the mid-term election in 2018? How will our election officials make sure the multiple applications for absent ballots will not be misused? Could multiple jurisdictions end up issuing multiple ballots to those people, e.g. college students, who may have moved within Michigan twice, three times, or even more since the last presidential election? That possibility should also concern Bridge Magazine and the League of Women Voters.

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 12:38pm

What a hilariously ignorant provision in the law that the State of Michigan and not the people will pay the return postage of the ballots. Does the State now have some magic Easter bunny that sprinkles money around? No, the money the State has to use comes from the people already. This is a case of others paying for both themselves and me to vote if I pay no tax.