Michigan Certifies Voting-Rights Proposal for Midterm

DETROIT (CN) – Facing legal action, Michigan election officials on Thursday certified a ballot measure allowing residents to approve same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

Last week, voting-rights group Promote the Vote joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in filing a federal lawsuit against state election officials claiming they were delaying and obstructing a measure that calls for reforms to the state’s voting system.

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The ballot initiative will ask voters in November to approve an amendment to the state constitution that will allow same-day registration and no-reason absentee voting, and make sure that military members and other residents living abroad get ballots in time to participate in elections.

Promote the Vote’s lawsuit now appears moot, after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, whose members were named as defendants, voted unanimously on Thursday morning to certify the measure, according to the ACLU. The proposal will now appear on this November’s midterm election ballot.

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss called the result a “great day for grass-roots democracy.”

“We’re on the ballot because hundreds of thousands of Michiganders want voting to be more accessible and know that the right to vote is a sacred constitutional right,” Moss said in prepared remarks. “We’re excited to kick off a conversation about the need for real voting reform, with a campaign that will reach every corner of Michigan.”

Promote the Vote secured more than 115,000 voter signatures above what the state requires for certification. After the submitting the signatures on July 9, the group said it suspected Michigan officials were delaying certification of the petition by invaliding two dozen petition signatures among a sample of 500.

The Michigan attorney general’s office said the group’s request for a court order had come too early.

In a motion filed on Aug. 31, the state said it had already published a staff report recommending certification of the proposal for the Nov. 6 ballot, and that by state law it had to decide whether to certify the ballot two months before the election.

“Any injury or harm plaintiffs may have suffered as a result of the Bureau of Elections’ rejection of certain petition signatures in the first sample of 500 signatures is no longer present or continuing,” Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast wrote in the court brief.

Michigan has some of the most restrictive voting regulations in the U.S., according to voting rights groups, and this year’s midterm election brings the issue into sharp focus.

On Aug. 1, a federal judge in Detroit permanently blocked the state from banning straight-party voting. U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain found the prohibition discriminates against African-American voters.

In late August, Michigan College Democrats asked a court to overturn a 1999 law that requires matching addresses for driver’s licenses and voter registration forms, claiming it suppresses the vote of in-state college students who often maintain two addresses.

Politicians pushing for voting restrictions typically cite voter fraud. However, numerous reports and studies have debunked claims that voter fraud is a widespread problem. Advocates for reforms that make it easier for people to vote have accused politicians of exploiting the issue for partisan gain.

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