Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today unveiled her legislative agenda for elections – Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy – to expand voter accessibility and further strengthen the infrastructure and security of Michigan elections. State Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), Democratic Vice Chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, was quick to express his support.
“The state Bureau of Elections, local clerks and election workers around the state worked tirelessly to execute one of the most safe, secure and successful elections in recent history despite unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Koleszar. “We learned a lot about meaningful steps we can take to expand equitable access to the ballot box, strengthen our voting infrastructure and increase security and transparency going forward. I strongly support Secretary Benson’s legislative recommendations and look forward to showing the rest of the nation how democracy can thrive in the 21st century.”
Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy outlines a number of initiatives, all designed to ensure equitable access for voters, strengthen Michigan’s elections infrastructure and guarantee the security of elections. Specifically, Benson is proposing the following:
- Require absentee ballot applications be mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle;
- Mandate ballots postmarked by Election Day and received shortly after are counted;
- Establish early in-person voting;
- Make Election Day a state holiday to facilitate voting and make it easier for citizens to serve as election workers;
- Allow overseas service members and spouses to return their ballots electronically;
- Require translated election materials where a significant non-English-speaking community lives;
- Provide funds to ensure voting locations are ADA-compliant and establish curbside voting;
- Allow processing of absentee ballots two weeks prior to Election Day;
- Prohibit deceptive election practices that deter or mislead voters;
- Prohibit open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a voting location;
- Mandate training standards for election challengers and election workers; and,
- Require a statewide risk-limiting audit of election results prior to state certification.
Benson unveiled her Advancing the Vote plan on the first day of Black History Month in tribute to the many Black Americans whose sacrifice helped bring about expanded voting rights for all citizens.
“Michigan voters want elections to be accessible, strong and secure. We saw this in 2018 when voters enshrined expanded voting rights in our state constitution, and again in 2020 when record numbers of voters exercised their new rights,” said Benson. “Our job now is clear: to defend and protect democracy by ensuring that no matter how one votes, who they vote for, where they live, or what they look like, their vote will be counted.”
Koleszar is working closely with Benson and fellow members of the state Legislature including State Sens. Jeremy Moss, Adam Hollier and Paul Wojno to draft and introduce bills that embody the Advancing the Vote plan.
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