Pre-Paid Postage and 9 Days of Early Voting? Michigan Will Soon Decide New Voting Norms

By Isaac Constans

January 31, 2022

A new voting amendment would protect absentee ballots and expand voting access, combatting an existing Republican-led plan that would ban voting at churches—among other restrictions. 

Need to Know

  • Early voting and absentee voting access is protected and expanded
  • Michiganders have came out in favor of these measures before
  • This proposal opposes Republican-led efforts to restrict voting access in the state

LANSING, Mich.—By the end of the year, Michiganders could vote to adopt new constitutionally protected voting rights aimed at making elections more convenient, secure, and accessible. 

The Promote the Vote 2022 initiative, officially launched Monday morning, would establish: 

  • early voting in person nine days before elections, making voting more accessible for working people.
  • lifelong absentee ballot registration, so voters would not need to complete a new application each election cycle.
  • step-by-step ballot tracking, so voters could see if their ballot has been accepted and fix any problems if it hasn’t been.

“Our goal is simple really: It’s to keep building a voting system that works for everybody in Michigan,” said Khalilah Spencer, board president of Promote the Vote. 

If it gathers the 400,000-plus signatures required, Promote the Vote will be on the November ballot, subject to the Board of Canvassers approving it as an initiative. 

Its provisions would not be rolled out until after the 2022 gubernatorial elections, since it is expected to be on the same ballot.

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Voting in 2023 and Beyond

Michiganders could enroll permanently for absentee voting, subject to an identity check. Some county clerks already carry out this process, but the proposal would proliferate it statewide.

Last year in Michigan, more than 60% of people voted absentee, a share that more than doubled the previous cycle’s proportion.

Absentee ballots would also include pre-paid postage to remove cost as a barrier to voting. After submitting their ballots, Michiganders could track their progress through a state-supported website, under the proposal. If there were to be any errors, voters would be notified and have an opportunity to correct their ballots.

The new ballot initiative, if it receives the required signatures as expected, would guarantee voters nine days of early voting, per Progress Michigan. That number was determined to account for funding limitations of clerks while still guaranteeing access for the many people who want to vote in person.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 states already have these or similar laws in place to protect voting.

“Ultimately, the voters are going to decide this, and we’re confident the voters are going to make the right decision,” Aghogho Edevbie, Michigan state director of All Voting Is Local said.

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Securing Elections While Fighting Restrictive Measures 

The announcement of Promote the Vote 2022 comes in the shadow of the Secure MI Vote campaign, an opposing, Republican-led petition that would restrict access to elections, including by prohibiting community centers like churches from volunteering as election sites. Efforts to impose arduous identity checks stem from false and debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election had votes counted from people who aren’t registered.

Voters must verify their identity when they vote in person or receive an absentee ballot already, but the new Promote the Vote campaign moves to reinforce that measure as part of what would be a new constitutional amendment.

Once voters are registered, they’ll have more options for how they vote.

The Promote The Vote campaign furthers the legacy of Proposal 3, which secured no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration for Michigan voters as a constitutional amendment. 

Proposal 3 was overwhelmingly supported by Michigan voters 2018 and making it a constitutional amendment meant that the legislature could not simply vote it down.

In a circumstance where both Promote the Vote—which expands voting access—and Secure MI Vote—which restricts voting access—pass, Promote the Vote would predominate, since it is a constitutional amendment.

“This proposal takes a great step to modernizing our elections,” said Christina Schlitt, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

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