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Clergy from faith organizations from around Michigan penned a letter to state lawmakers, critical of a proposal that would end voting at churches. 

MICHIGAN—Faith leaders from around the state are concerned about a new initiative that could mean many commonly-used voting locations can no longer be used. 

More than 60 faith leaders from around Michigan this month signed an open letter addressed to voters and Michigan lawmakers criticizing the Secure MI Vote petition, which could ban voting at churches and other places of worship. 

Republicans tout the initiative as a proposal to require voters to show an identification card or social security number in order to vote. But if passed, over 20% of polling places in Michigan would be affected—primarily churches, where many rural voters go to easily cast their ballots. 

“It’s alarming and it’s frustrating and it’s scary,” Mary Clark, a clerk in Delta Township, said of the initiative. 

READ MORE: ‘People Have Fought Wars for This:’ Clerks Respond to Republicans’ Plan Banning Voting in Churches

Below is a copy of the open letter, written for Michigan voters and lawmakers, urging them not to disenfranchise voters, as the proposal would do. The letter is followed by the more than 60 signatures of Michigan faith leaders voicing their concerns about the proposal. 

We, the undersigned faith leaders from across Michigan agree:

The Secure MI Vote petition is a sweeping proposal that will negatively impact voters, clerks, and communities.

As faith leaders and clergy, we are particularly concerned about the provision in the proposal that would ban places of worship from donating their spaces to local clerks to use as polling locations. A recent report shows that roughly 20 percent of polling places across Michigan could be impacted by this proposal.

Places of worship have a long and rich history of being hubs of community activity that includes serving as polling places for cities and townships across Michigan. The idea that faith leaders would be forced to charge clerks, who already operate on tight budgets, for the use of their space, or be blocked as accessible polling locations is unconscionable and would go against the helpful role our congregations and facilities play in our communities.

Whatever the rationale was for this policy, the result is clear: it will confuse and disenfranchise voters while barring community spaces, like places of worship, from providing a service to voters regardless of their religious or political affiliations. 

Not only would the Secure MI Vote proposal ban congregations from donating their spaces for polling places, but it would also take away voting options on Election Day by removing the option to vote by affidavit, make absentee voting less accessible by requiring more information from voters who are already registered, and cut off funding opportunities to local clerks without any provision to replace it.

Given these issues, we strongly urge voters across Michigan and state lawmakers in Lansing to think about whether this proposal is worth supporting given its likely negative impact on voters, clerks, and communities. As faith leaders, we believe in the freedom for everyone to have equitable access to elections, and the Secure MI Vote proposal would severely limit this.

Sincerely,

Vicki McGaffigan, UU the Vote Volunteer Squad Leader, Bay de Noc UU, Escanaba
Rev. Dr. Kit Carlson, All Saints Episcopal Church, East Lansing
Rev. Colleen Squires, All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, Grand Rapids MI
Irene Walter, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Troy
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin, Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor
Jacob Zinke, Birmingham Congregational Church UCC, Bloomfield Hills
Pat Hammer, Birmingham Unitarian Church, Bloomfield Hills
Julia Pulver, Board of Trustees, Birmingham Unitarian Church, Bloomfield Hills
Rev. Maymette Dolberry, Brown Chapel AME Church, Ypsilanti
John Hearn Jr. Pastor, Christian Faith Ministries of Garden City, Garden City
Rev. John D. Hearn Jr., President Inkster Ministerial Alliance, Christian Faith Ministries of Garden City, Garden City
Rev. Burnard Byles, Church of Our Father Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit
Cynthia Butler, Pastoral Liaison, Church of the Messiah, Detroit
Rev. Louise Ott, Cong. Ch. Of Birmingham, UCC, Bloomfield Hills
Rabbi Jeffrey L. Falick, Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Metro Detroit, Farmington Hills
Rabbi Alicia Harris, Congregation Shir Tikvah, Troy
Dr. Paul von Oeyen, Social Justice Facilitator, Detroit Metro Assoc, United Church of Christ, Congregational Church of Birmingham United Church of Christ, Bloomfield Hills
Rev. Louise R. Ott, Congregational Church of Birmingham, UCC, Bloomfield Hills
Evangelist Elva Carson, Conventional Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit
Rabbi Alana Alpert, Detroit Jews for Justice, Detroit
Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Downtown Synagogue, Detroit
Rev. Kristin Stroble, Pastor, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, East Lansing
Rev. Elizabeth Miller, Edgewood United Church UCC, East Lansing
Clayton Blackwell, Evergreen Church, Ann Arbor
Rev. Dr. Laura Miller-Purrenhage, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Grand Ledge
Rev. Ben Rumbaugh, First Presbyterian Church of Holt, Holt
Connie McGuire, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor
Dr. Samuel White, III, Friendship Baptist Church, Detroit
Dr. John E. Duckworth, GMBC Gethsemane Bapt. Church, Westland
Arthur Berry Sr, Chaplain, Hope for the Community Mission, Detroit
Rev Dr Sid Mohn, Director, Interfaith Action of SW Michigan, SW Michigan
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Kehillat Etz Chayim of Detroit, Huntington Woods
Minister Debra D. King, Liberty Temple Baptist Church, Detroit
Alonzo Bell, Pastor, Martin Evers MBC, Detroit
Bonnie Campbell, member liaison, New Hope UU Congregation, New Hudson
Rev. Jeffery D. Harrold, New Beginnings Community Church of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor
Rev. Dr. Laura J. Hunt, New Beginnings Community Church of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor
Rev. Joseph Stephens, Pastor, New Birth Baptist Church, Inkster
Michael Kelleher, New Hope A Unitarian Universalist Congregation, New Hudson
Kathy Silver, Director of Religious Education, New Hope Unitarian Universalist Congregation, New Hudson
Denise Harris, President of the Board, New Hope Unitarian Universalist Congregation, New Hudson
Rev. Jody Betten, New Waves United Church of Christ, Traverse City
Randy Block, Director, Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church, Southfield
Kim Spencer, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church, Southfield
Barbara Stevenson, NWUU, Southfield
Rabbi Dr. Chava Bahle, Or Tzafon Spiritual Community, Suttons Bay
Kellen Brooks, Senior Pastor, Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ, Inkster
Richard “Bud” Murphy, Retired Minister, Peoples Church, Ludington
Dr. Keith L Whitney, Sanctuary Fellowship Baptist Church, Detroit
Rev. Dr. Julie J. Kilmer, Spirit of Peace Church of the Brethren, East Lansing
Prof. Paul Holman, PhD, St. Clalre’s Church, Ann Arbor
Linda Klimach, Senior Warden, St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church, Ann Arbor
Christine Modey, President of the Board, Genesis of Ann Arbor, St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church and Genesis of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor
Rev. Cheryl Burke, Associate Conference Minister, St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ, Lansing
Rabbi Jen Lader, Temple Israel, West Bloomfield
Rev. Jacqueline Melson, Third New Baptist Church, Detroit
Rev. Gail Shafer, Trinity Episcopal Church, Grand Ledge
Elder Leslie Mathews, Director of Outreach, Triumphant Life Christian Church, Highland Park
Melvin T Jones, Pastor, Union Missionary Baptist Church, Lansing
Rev. Neal Anderson, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing, Lansing
Frank Jackson, Pastor, United Christian Church, Detroit
Rev. Sharon Ketchum, Senior Minister, Unity Spiritual Center of Lansing, Lansing
Rev. Dr. Selma Massey, and DMA Moderator, Whosoever Ministry UCC, Grosse Pointe Farms