By GLORIA NZEKA
Capital News Service
LANSING – Voter advocacy and civil rights groups are petitioning for a state constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Michigan residents to vote.
The campaign, called “Promote the Vote,” seeks to give military members more time to vote, automatically register citizens when they conduct business at a Secretary of State office and allow absentee voting without the need to give a reason. It also would allow same-day voting registration with proof of residency and straight party voting.
Under current state law, you need to be registered at least 30 days before an election to vote. Military operating from an overseas installation are advised to send back their absentee ballot 35 days before election day, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
“We just want voting to be accessible, convenient and everyone’s vote to be counted and secure,” said Judy Karandjeff, the president of the League of Women Voters.
The proposal which is targeted for next November’s election, is backed by the league, the American Civil Liberties Union and the state and Detroit branches of the NAACP.
The Secretary of State’s office is confident in the state’s current voting process, said Fred Woodhams, the elections agency’s director of communication.
“We believe that Michigan elections system does an excellent job of allowing voters to cast a ballot and have their voice heard.”
“Michigan saw the most registered voters ever in 2016,” he said. “Recent elections have seen near-record turnout.”
The Board of State Canvassers has approved the petition language, “and people will be able to sign the petition shortly,” Karandjeff said.
Backers of the proposal must get 315,654 valid signatures of registered voters to make the November ballot.
Only 15 states and the District of Columbia allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. The organization says there is strong evidence that election day registration increases voter turnout.
Promote the Vote isn’t the only campaign seeking to reform Michigan’s elections laws. Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, a group of activists introduced a constitutional amendment proposal called Voters Not Politicians.
It would establish an independent commission to oversee the drawing of Michigan’s electoral districts. Elected officials would be ineligible to serve on the commission.
In December the group turned in more than 425,000 valid signatures to the Secretary of State, where the petition is under review. The redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years, was controlled by Republicans in 2011 and the party has since maintained legislative majorities in elections.