House Democrats introduced a package of bills to make voting more accessible for Michigan voters in a press conference at the Capitol.
Need to Know
- One bill in the package would allow nine days of early in-person voting before Election Day.
- Another proposal would ban guns at or within a 100 feet of polling stations.
- GOP state lawmakers, meanwhile, continue to champion policies that would make it harder to vote.
LANSING—Michigan House Democrats have introduced a package of nine bills that would make voting easier and safer for Michiganders with the aim of expanding ballot access and banning guns from the polling stations.
In a press conference last week at the steps of the state Capitol, House Democrats announced they are firmly committed to protecting the right to vote and breaking down barriers to the ballot.
One bill in the legislative package would allow nine days of early in-person voting, starting the second Sunday before Election Day and ending the Sunday before. If passed, Michigan would join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing early in-person voting, according to Michigan Advance.
“Our state’s laws shouldn’t force Michiganders to choose between exercising their right to vote or getting to work on time,” Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said at the March 16 conference.
Michigan clerks have also championed early voting. The presidents of two associations representing Michigan clerks— Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks (MAMC) and Michigan Association of County Clerks (MACC)— signed a letter calling lawmakers on changes that need to be made before November 2022 elections, including the creation of “a functional structure to offer early voting as an option for Michigan voters,” MLive.com reports.
Pohutsky, who sponsored the bill for early voting, also noted long lines on Election Day disproportionately impact people who already face barriers to voting, such as working-class people, people of color, disabled Michiganders, and the elderly.
“Rather than passing legislation to make these obstacles even more insurmountable, we need to be working to empower our constituents, to exercise their right to vote,” Pohutsky said.
Another bill touted by Democrats last week would prohibit a person from carrying a firearm into or within 100 feet of any polling location with the exception of on-duty, uniformed law enforcement officers.
Bill sponsor Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit) emphasized the legislation is not about the constitutional right to own guns. Rather, it is about the right of every Michigander to have a peace of mind and to feel safe when going and exercising their right to vote.
“We already have laws in place that limit where people are allowed to carry firearms—places like churches, daycare facilities and sports arenas,” Young said. “So there’s nothing crazy or malicious about this legislation, it simply makes sense. Active polling places should be on this list and to allow the presence of firearms to get in a way of letting our voices be heard at the ballot box, even if unintentionally, is just simply wrong.”
The legislation has not received any support from Republicans as of yet and is likely to be blocked.
GOP lawmakers introduced their own efforts last year to reform the elections and voting system aimed at restricting voting access in Michigan. These bills included eliminating the option of signing an affidavit for voters to verify their identity before voting at the polls and prohibiting Secretary of State, clerks, and public employees from sending out absentee ballot applications to people who don’t request them.
Another aimed to ban election officials from accepting private funds to administer elections. According to the Detroit Free Press, it’s “written in a way that could also bar clerks from accepting federal grant money.”
After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer exercised her veto power last fall to block these restrictive bills from becoming law, GOP legislators have since turned to collecting signatures for a petition that would overhaul state election laws by exploiting a quirk in the Michigan Constitution and circumvent the governor. The petition, Secure MI Vote, was approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers with a 3-0 vote. Canvasser Julie Matuzak, a Democrat, was absent from the meeting.
The GOP-led House also approved a bill in early March to specify that a Michigan voter must physically sign an absentee application before receiving a ballot. The House bill introduced by Rep. Andrew Beeler’s (R-Port Huron) was in response to SOS Benson continuing with her efforts to maintain the online application that allowed voters to request absentee voter ballots without signing an application.
“Elections are the foundation of a representative form of government, which makes it so frustrating and disheartening that there are efforts still out there to undermine that foundation,” Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth said in the Wednesday press conference.
Many of these attempts to restrict voting access are in response to the 2020 presidential election when Donald Trump incited election fraud conspiracy theories across the nation after losing to Joe Biden. In Michigan, the former president lost to Biden by 154,000 votes. Despite having no evidence that the state’s election process was at any kind of fault, many Republicans have supported “Stop The Steal” and other conspiracies.