Recently, I visited Alabama with the Faith and Politics Institute for Congressman John Lewis’ Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. We visited civil rights monuments in Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, before heading to Selma to commemorate Bloody Sunday. As we reflected on the rights that were so bravely fought for on that Sunday decades ago, we recognized that the fight continues on across the country. In Michigan, we’re taking the fight to the ballot and aiming to ensure all can vote. We want to make voting more accessible, secure, and fair for all Michiganders.
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Michigan, along with the NAACP and League of Women Voters, launched the Promote the Vote, a ballot measure campaign that would secure the right to vote for all eligible voters in Michigan. This initiative would amend the state constitution to allow voters to register at any time — up to and including on Election Day; automatically register voters; require post-election audits; expand access to absentee ballots; allow for straight-ticket party voting; and ensure those in the military get their ballots with enough time to vote. Our goal is to put the amendment on the ballot this November.
For too long Michigan has lagged behind other states in knocking down the unnecessary road blocks voters encounter when trying to exercise their right. Working families have to face long lines, travel long distances to their polling place, and take time off work to vote. Military service members overseas aren’t always sure they’re going to get their ballot in time. This needs to change.
We know making it easier to register to vote means more people will vote. In the 15 states that allow people to register up to and on Election Day, voter turnout has increased by an average of about five percent. Automatic voter registration has the potential to do the same.
The policy ensures those eligible to vote will be registered, unless they decline, after any interaction with the secretary of state’s office. This includes getting a driver’s license or a permit. It makes registering to vote more efficient and saves localities from having to process paper registrations. Nine states already have this in place with an additional 15 state considering adopting the policy for this election year.
Michigan makes it hard for individuals who can’t vote on Election Day to vote by absentee ballot. Our Promote the Vote measure would amend this. For a single working mom like Angela Willson of Grosse Pointe Park, easier access to an absentee ballot means she does not have to take off time from her two jobs to vote. Almost 30 states do not require a reason to vote absentee, so this ballot initiative would bring Michigan in line with the majority of the country.
All these updates would make voting more of a sure thing in Michigan, guaranteeing a fair and accessible process. Following in the footsteps of civil rights leaders, we’re continuing their work today. We want every eligible person who can vote to vote, and we want to ensure that every vote will count.
We’re off to a strong start to collecting signatures from Michigan residents to qualify for the November ballot. You can join our effort at Promote the Vote: https://promotethevotemi.com/.