Beginning with the presidential primary in February of next year, the Michigan legislature is swiftly implementing historic voting reforms.
After each Michigan legislative chamber on Wednesday passed legislation packages, this expansion of voting access, which implements Proposal 2 from last year’s midterms, is halfway to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk.
The most significant component is a brand-new early in-person voting system unique to Michigan. Other highlights include requiring a ballot drop box in each city and township and creating a single application for voters who wish to vote absentee in subsequent elections.
Rep. Erin Byrnes, D-Dearborn, stated, “These bills will expand the voting rights of the people in our state.” They will support our state’s continued prominence in the democratic process.
On Wednesday, party-line votes allowed the House’s Prop 2 package to pass seven of eight bills. A few Republicans supported a bill to increase the maximum precinct size from 2,999 to 5,000 registered voters.
All eight bills received support from at least one Republican member of the Senate. The only package in the Senate has a Republican sponsor, Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, whose bill specifies the criminal penalties for leaking election results from early voting sites.
Legislators met with clerks, interest groups, and the office of the Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson. These meetings resulted in the creation of bills. Since the bundles were presented last week and removed from Tuesday’s advisory group, conservatives are griping of a facilitated interaction.
“Why are we rushing through some the most important legislation that we will pass through this chamber in our time here?” s said Brighton-based Republican Rep. Ann Bollin, who served as a clerk for 17 years and presided over the House elections committee during the previous term.
However, the primary complaint made by GOP lawmakers is that the bills go beyond what is required by the constitutional amendment. The Democrats added electronic absentee ballot requests, the ability to print ballots on demand at early voting locations, and transferring more oversight authority to Benson.
Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, argued, “There’s no need for radical election reform, yet we are doing them anyway.” The Wild West of election security is what voters voted for, despite their desire for greater convenience.
Additionally, “at least” nine days of early in-person voting are required by Prop 2, but Republicans object to municipalities being permitted to go beyond that. Some clerks in big cities especially want weeks of early voting, but Republicans say there is unequal access to voting because communities have different early voting days.
Penelope Tsernoglou, chair of the elections committee, considers the bills bipartisan because they include requests from Democrats and Republicans in the county and municipal clerks associations, despite party-line votes in the House.
Tsernoglou, a delegate from East Lansing, stated, “We just want to provide the most access possible.”
She added that many of the provisions beyond Prop 2′s language “make clerks’ jobs easier,” noting “nothing that restrains us” from going further than the amendment.
She stated, “Everything we’ve done is in the spirit of increasing access to voting, which is what people voted for and wanted.”
To give clerks sufficient time to begin implementing the changes for the following year, lawmakers aim to pass the Prop 2 bills before the legislature departs for summer break at the end of June. Expect to sign a mix of bills from the House and the Senate.