Michigan Senate Votes to Make Registering and Voting HarderRelease Date: December 7, 2011, 7:00 pm
Three Bills Limit Voter Registration Drives and Make Absentee Voting More Difficult
Washington, DC – Today, the Michigan Senate passed three bills – Senate Bill 751, Senate Bill 754, and Senate Bill 803 – that amend Michigan’s election laws. Promoted as measures to improve Michigan elections, they will only create confusion, erect barriers for voters, and increase burdens and costs on local election officials.
The legislation will discourage voter registration drives by civic and church groups such as the League of Women Voters. The complex process of complying with the law – and the possible fines associated with failing to properly follow each step – is unnecessary and will take resources away from registering voters and threaten volunteer organizations. Additionally, the voter registration training the legislation proposes is vague and this legislation requires an extraordinarily short turnaround for turning in registration forms the one week before the election.
“Legislators are correct that Michigan election law needs to be reformed,” said Robert M. Brandon, President of the Fair Elections Legal Network. “However, these bills will set Michigan voters further back and reduce access to the ballot box. Not only do they create onerous requirements on voter registration groups but they will erect barriers and cause confusion among those that need to vote by absentee ballot.”
While the legislation allows for no-reason absentee voting – a long overdue reform – it also would require a person to present a photo ID in order to register to vote in person as well as to receive an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots could also be automatically challenged if a voter hands in their ballot without presenting photo ID – potentially causing confusion for young voters, college students and those who may be temporarily out of state for work attempting to vote by absentee ballot.
“With turnout hovering around only 44% in Michigan in 2010, legislators should instead focus on legislation that will increase access and make voting more convenient such as allowing online voter registration and Election Day registration and joining 32 other states in allowing early voting,” said Brandon. “These reforms would make voting more convenient and increase participation in Michigan elections.” Legislators should scrap the bills they passed and pursue these positive reforms instead to make voting more convenient.”