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Michigan petition seeks 9 days of early voting, funds for absentee ballots

voting
Michigan voters could have a long ballot this fall, as 11 citizen initiatives ranging from abortion rights to truth in sentencing are vying to make it on the ballot. (Shutterstock)

Feb 2. Betsy DeVos backs Michigan petitions for voucher-like school choice program

LANSING — A coalition of voting-rights groups is launching a ballot initiative to change the Michigan Constitution to allow early voting and publicly subsidize absentee ballots. 

The ballot proposal, Promote the Vote 2022, could cancel a different initiative pushed by Republicans that would tighten election laws and require voter IDs.

Sponsor

Khalilah Spencer, the board president of the Promote the Vote, told reporters Monday morning the goal of the ballot initiative is “to continue building a voting system that works for everyone in Michigan” by allowing nine days of early, in-person voting, along with other measures.

    “Creating a true early-voting system means that busy people like people with two jobs or people who have kids at home and taking care of children have more options for how and when to vote,” said Shelli Weisberg, the political director of the ACLU of Michigan.

    At a glance

    There are over 11 efforts to put ballot initiatives in the 2022 November ballot. Here’s a review of all:

    Unlock Michigan II: Would limit to 28 days the length of the emergency orders issued by state or local health officials and empower the Michigan Legislature and local governments to decide whether to extend them. 

    Audit MI: Would force a third-party "forensic audit" of the 2020 election, and change how the state handles post-election audits.

    Let MI Kids Learn: There are two proposals under consideration. One would create the Student Opportunity Scholarship program to pay for tuition in private schools, and the other would amend the state’s income tax laws to allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit for contributions made for qualifying expenses of the scholarship program. 

    MI Right to Vote: Would change the petition initiative process in Michigan by ending the Legislature’s ability to adopt into law ballot measures that collect enough signatures. 

    Michiganders for Fair Lending: Would cap the annual interest rate for payday loans at 36 percent.

    Michigan United: Would repeal Truth in Sentencing laws that require incarcerated and convicted people in Michigan to serve all of their minimum sentences, and eliminate the extension of minimum sentences because of misconduct.

    Promote the Vote 2022: Would allow nine days of early voting, voters to sign an affidavit attesting to their identification, fund mailing of absentee ballots and require more drop boxes.

    Raise the Wage Michigan: Would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2027. The state minimum wage is now $9.87.

    Reproductive Freedom for All: Would amend the state constitution to establish a new state right of individual reproductive freedom, essentially repealing a decades-long law making abortion a felony. That law was nullified by Roe v. Wade in 1973 but would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the decision.

    Secure MI Vote: Would require voter ID, ban outside funding of elections and restrict registration and mailing of absentee ballots.

    While organizers say the petition is not in response from Republicans, called Secure MI Vote, the new ballot measure preserves several measures targeted by its counterpart.

    Promote the Vote 2022 would: 

    • Continue to allow people to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity to vote, rather than show official ID. Secure MI Vote would require IDs.
    • Require the Michigan Legislature to fund for postage for absentee ballots as well as a tracking system to allow voters know the location of their absentee ballot and whether there are any issues.
    • Allow local governments to accept funding from public and charitable sources. That would be banned under Secure MI Vote.
    • Require ballot drop boxes for every 15,000 voters in a municipality.
    • Establish that post-election audits can only be conducted by state and county election officials. The amendment would bar officials from any political party from participating in the audit. A separate ballot measure Audit MI would appoint a political board to perform audits.
    • Allow voters to register for absentee voting for all future elections, without having to reapply. Secure MI Vote would require voters to reapply for absentee ballots every election.

    The proposal joins 10 petitions seeking to be placed in the 2022 November ballot involving topics from abortion rights and criminal justice reform to minimum wage and payday lending.

    Promote the Vote 2022 is backed by the Promote the Vote nonprofit, the ACLU of Michigan, League of Women Voters of Michigan, All Voting is Local and Voters Not Politicians. 

    Related: 

    It still has a long way to go. The Board of Canvassers has to first approve the 100-word petition summary, and then it has to approve the petition form. 

    Promote the Vote 2022 would then have to collect 425,059 signatures in order for the petition to be either voted by the Michigan Legislature, or to be included in the 2022 ballot. 

    Should voters approve both dueling ballot measures, organizers for both agree that Promote the Vote would carry more weight of law because it is a constitutional amendment. Secure MI Vote is not.

    Polling indicates that voters favor the concept of making elections more accessible and early voting — as well as measures such as requiring IDs. 

    Jamie Roe, spokesperson for Secure MI Vote, told Bridge Michigan his group wants “to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat” and predicted the progressive counterpart would “unsecure Michigan elections.”

    “It's a turnout driver for us,” Roe said. “And if they want to put it on the ballot, have fun.”

    The dueling ballot drives come as Democrats and Republicans nationwide fight over voting laws, and loyalists to former President Donald Trump continue to spread false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

    Sponsor

    GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley on Saturday suggested election workers should "unplug" voting machines if they "see something they don't like happening" in 2022.

    At the same event in Livingston County, Republican state Senate candidate Mike Detmer said gun owners should "show up armed" to deter potential fraud in future elections.

    Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, responded on Twitter by noting that "voter intimidation and tampering with election machines is illegal" and will be prosecuted. 

    Bridge reporter Jonathan Oosting contributed

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