Legislation allows for early voting, keeps guns out of polling places

LANSING, Mich., March 16, 2022 — Members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to announce another round of bills that protect the right to vote and take down unnecessary barriers between Michiganders and their franchise. 

“We want every Michigander to vote in every election, every time, period,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township). “We are fighting for that principle every day. Anything less is an affront to the most fundamental right in our democracy.” 

The bills announced today come after an initial package of legislation announced in November. The bills would require clerks to send out absentee ballot applications, allow absentee ballots to be processed up to seven days before Election Day, require at least one ballot dropbox per 20,000 people in a municipality and more. 

“After the 2020 election, which was an overwhelming success despite many challenges, we’ve been listening to clerks and other officials tell us what would make voting more accessible and elections more efficient,” said state Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), Democratic vice chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee. “That package of bills would accomplish a lot, but there’s more to be done, and that’s why we’re here today.”

One bill in today’s package would allow for nine days of in-person early voting. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia, along with some overseas territories, allow for early voting. Proposal 3 of 2018, which Michigan voters passed by a 2-to-1 margin, added the right to no-reason absentee voting and in-person absentee voting to the state constitution.

“The right to vote is only a guarantee as long as people can access it. Voters want, and deserve, more options to exercise that right,” said state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), the bill’s sponsor. “The more participation we have in our elections, the more representative elected officials will be of the population they serve, and that’s good for everyone.”

Another bill discussed today would prohibit the possession of a firearm within a polling place or within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place on Election Day, with the exception of a uniformed, on-duty law enforcement officer. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a similar rule before the 2020 election, which was struck down because of a procedural error.

“Before and during the Civil Rights Movement, guns were used to harass and intimidate Black people who were simply trying to exercise their rights. Unfortunately, we’re seeing that again today with extremists who believe only certain people should vote,” said state Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), the sponsor of the bill. “That is not the America that folks fought and died for 60 years ago. We cannot allow a few bad actors to spoil our elections with threats of violence.”

Other bills in the package would:

  • Create a process for clerks to notify voters if their signature doesn’t match the one on an absentee ballot application or absentee ballot return envelope.
  • Allow voters to request email or text updates to track their absentee ballot.
  • Codify the ability to request an absentee ballot on the Secretary of State’s website.
  • Prohibit information on pre-registered voters in the Qualified Voter File from being accessed through the Freedom of Information Act until they turn 18.
  • Require the state to reimburse municipalities for the costs of legislative special elections. 
  • Prohibit petition signature gatherers from making intentional misstatements to convince a voter to sign a petition.