Lawmakers Launch Plans to Expand Voting Rights in Michigan—Beginning with Military Families

In this Dec. 23, 2009 file photo, United States Marine LCpl. Franklin Romans of Michigan, from the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines "Warlords" searches a house during an operation in the Garmsir district of the volatile Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 21, 2023

New legislation aims to make it easier for military members and their families to make their voices heard on Election Day.

LANSING—Michiganders want easier access to the polling booth.

It’s a clear directive that was handed to newly sworn-in state lawmakers this year after nearly 2.5 million Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 in November with about 60% of the vote. 

The initiative, otherwise known as “Promote the Vote,” was designed to make it easier for Michiganders to cast their ballot, and also lock existing voting rights into the state Constitution.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the state Senate followed the will of the voters, passing the first election reform bill related to the proposal: Senate Bill 259.

READ MORE: Michigan Will Soon Decide New Voting Norms Under Proposal 2 (2022)

The legislation—like Proposal 2 dictates—would allow absentee voter ballots from military members (and their spouses and voting-age dependents) to still be counted as long as they are signed and dated by Election Day, and received by a local clerk up to six days after the election.

“While our men and women of the military are serving overseas to uphold our freedom, democracy, and safety, it’s only right that we do what we can to ensure their votes are counted and they have a say in their representation back home,” said state Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), the bill’s sponsor. “This is the flexibility and consideration our service members have been asking for, and this is a direct execution of the will of the Michigan people this past November.” 

READ MORE: A Quick Reference Guide to Michigan’s 3 Ballot Proposals (2022)

Additional legislation to fulfill the requirements of Proposal 2 are en route, state officials said. 

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) is reportedly working on the other changes.

“My committee will usher through the implementation of these new changes that make it easier for Michiganders to access their ballots and cast their votes,” Moss said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the will of the people with action on additional legislation in weeks to come.”

Among the other forthcoming election reforms in Michigan: 

  • Creating a nine-day early voting period—including two weekends—with polls open for eight hours a day 
  • Adding new provisions that ban harassment and intimidation at the polling booth
  • Providing voters access to a single application to vote absentee in all elections
  • Requiring the state to fund prepaid stamps and a tracking system for absentee ballots 
  • Requiring the state to fund at least one absentee ballot dropbox in every city and township
  • Allowing local governments to accept US-based donations to help run elections
  • Clarifying that the Board of State Canvassers is the only body that can verify elections
  • Clarifying that election results are to be certified based on an official record of votes cast 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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