Whitmer signs bills to expand voting rights in Michigan

Whitmer signs bills to expand voting rights in Michigan

Voters check in at a polling station to cast their ballots in Detroit during the midterm elections. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

November 15, 2023

Legislation signed into law this month will eliminate a statewide ban on taking an Uber or Lyft to a polling place and simplify absentee voting for active-duty military members.

MICHIGAN—Three bills signed into law last week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are designed to protect and expand voting rights in Michigan, and make it easier for Michiganders to vote.

In a statement, Whitmer said the legislation—House Bills 4567 and 4568 and Senate Bill 470—represent “common-sense” action from lawmakers to help make it easier for people to get to the polls and for Michiganders serving in the military to have their absentee ballots counted.

“Every Michigander must be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote in our elections,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As governor, I am focused on protecting and expanding voting rights. … Let’s keep working together so every citizen can make their voice heard.” 

One of the bills, HB 4467, removes a requirement in state law that forced automatic challenges to all ballots from voters who couldn’t  provide residency with a driver’s license. Lawmakers said the change will expedite the voting process and make it easier for clerks to process results—especially on college campuses, where the issue comes up more frequently.

“This legislation ensures the voices of each and every voter are protected and elevated – especially our youngest voters that are often voting for their very first time,” state Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) said in a statement. “Burdensome requirements were struck from the books, and long lines at polling places on college campuses will soon be a distant memory.” 

Another bill—HB 4568—repeals Michigan’s long-standing ban on hiring drivers (like through Lyft or Uber) to take voters to the polls on Election Day, which officials said has restricted the voting rights of seniors, people with disabilities, young voters, and those without transportation.

The change will also enable more organizations to offer courtesy rides to vote on Election Day.

“By eliminating outdated restrictions on hiring transportation to polling places, we are removing barriers and expanding access to voting for many in our community,” state Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) said in a statement. “This law will allow voters who lack reliable transportation to get the help they need to exercise their fundamental right. Whether it’s reimbursing a neighbor for gas or hiring an Uber, citizens should have flexibility in getting to the polls. I’m grateful to my colleagues and the governor for recognizing that this reform will strengthen our democracy.”

Earlier this year, Whitmer signed legislation to give overseas voters and military members more time to cast their absentee ballots in future elections—enabling them to be counted up to six days after an election, just as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day. 

SB 470, which Whitmer signed last week, grants the Secretary of State additional time to set up a system for supporting the electronic return of absentee ballots for uniformed service members.

“This legislation was passed with bipartisan support to give our servicemen and women the peace of mind that when they are deployed in defense of our nation their ballot will be counted,” state Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) said in a statement. “It also gives our dedicated election officials the time and tools they need to ensure our elections maintain the highest standards.”

READ MORE: New laws to make voting more convenient than ever for Michiganders

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  • 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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