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Voting rights ballot measure: What Proposal 2 would change in Michigan

voting
Proposal 2 will be one of three ballot questions before voters in November. (Bridge file photo)
  • Proposal 2 would add election requirements to the state constitution, including nine days of early voting
  • Supporters say the changes would allow voters more flexibility and make the process more accessible
  • Opponents are concerned the measure could compromise election security

Oct. 5: Proposal 2: Michigan clerks ‘nervous’ about funding 9 days of early voting
Sept. 28: Proposal 2 wouldn’t let Michigan prisoners vote, despite claims in mass texts

Michigan voters will determine whether to implement nine days of early voting and a host of other changes to state election procedures when they consider Proposal 2 at the Nov. 8 general election.

A “yes” vote would add several changes to the Michigan Constitution, including allowing nine days of early voting, expanded access to absentee voting and continuing to allow registered voters who show up on Election Day without a state ID to vote after signing an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Sponsor

A “no” vote would reject the proposed changes and keep the status quo on existing election procedures, leaving open the possibility of future legislative changes.

Related:

Known as “Promote the Vote,” the initiative was championed by a committee that submitted 669,972 signatures to the state Bureau of Elections, which recommended it met the threshold for the ballot.

Initially, the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 and failed to place the proposal on the November ballot. But the Michigan Supreme Court in September ordered the board to certify it, along with a separate initiative that would add the right to abortion to the state constitution known as Proposal 3. 

The November ballot will include a brief summary of the proposal, but you can read the full petition here

What the proposal would do

Proposal 2 would amend the Michigan Constitution to: 

  • Allow nine days of early voting
  • Require state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots
  • Continue to allow registered voters without a state ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity 
  • Allow public sources and charities to fund elections, subject to disclosure rules
  • Allow voters to register for absentee ballots for all future elections
  • Require military and overseas ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day
  • Require ballot drop boxes for every 15,000 voters in a municipality
  • Establish that post-election audits can only be conducted by state and local officials
  • Require canvassing boards to only certify election results based on the official vote counts

What supporters say

The coalition says the measure offers flexibility for voters to cast their ballots, makes elections more accessible and ensures election security while protecting voter privacy

“It’s more important than ever to enhance election integrity and protect the ability of every eligible Michigander to vote, regardless of party,” said Nancy Wang of Voters Not Politicians, one of the groups backing the measure. 

Supporters say the measure would strengthen democracy by removing existing barriers to voting.

What opponents say

Opponents claim the measure would open the door to abuse. Republicans in general have been opposed to wide expansions of absentee voting because of security and cost concerns. Michigan has more than 1,000 jurisdictions operating elections and adding early voting would require additional work by staffers.

Republicans have also supported amending state law to include stricter identification requirements for voters. 

Critics also say the proposal would nullify several state laws, including the state Legislature’s ability to exclude incarcerated people or those of “mental incompetence” from voting.

A challenge to the petition argued the Promote the Vote language did not adequately inform voters of what sections of the constitution the proposal would amend and should not qualify for the ballot. 

The Michigan Supreme Court rejected this argument and ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify the initiative. In a concurring opinion, Justice Elizabeth Welch said the proposed provisions can “exist and operate in harmony” with the Michigan Constitution.

Who is backing the proposal?

The coalition supporting the ballot language is backed by Promote the Vote Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, League of Women Voters of Michigan, All Voting is Local, and Voters Not Politicians

In 2018, Promote the Vote successfully pushed for other voting reform measures, allowing for automatic voter registration, obtaining early and absentee ballots and casting straight-ticket votes. 

Sponsor

Who opposes the proposal? 

An opposition group called Defend Your Vote was behind an unsuccessful challenge to the Promote the Vote proposal.

A separate group, Secure MI Vote, submitted signatures for a proposal to amend state law and include several measures that run counter to what’s proposed in the Promote the Vote petition.

The Secure MI Vote measure would require mandatory identification for in-person and absentee voting, prohibit absentee ballot application mass mailings and bar election funding by private groups. 

That proposal is not on the ballot but could be taken up at some point by lawmakers.

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