Common Cause, Allies Urge Defeat of Michigan Bill Restricting Voting, Registration

Legislation Bucks National Movement Toward Modernizing Elections

Common Cause joined with ten other advocacy organizations on Monday in urging the defeat of legislation in Michigan that would put new, unwarranted, and potentially illegal restrictions on voting.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder, the groups said the bill, SB 639, bucks a national trend toward modernizing election procedures and equipment. Among other changes, the legislation would increase restrictions on absentee voting by first-time voters and bar election officials from accepting absentee ballots outside of normal working hours or at satellite locations.

“The federal Help America Vote Act already requires a first-time voter seeking to vote by mail to provide identification before receiving a ballot,” said Allegra Chapman, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “This legislation in Michigan imposes additional burdens on those voters and on municipal clerks and does nothing to enhance the integrity of our elections.”

Chapman and Melanie McElroy, executive director of Common Cause Michigan, said one particularly troubling portion of the bill appears to be modeled after a 2012 Wisconsin law that stripped local governments of authority to pass ordinances promoting voter registration. The city council in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, had adopted an ordinance requiring landlords to distribute voter registration information along with lease applications. The proposed Michigan provision takes aim at a similar local ordinance in East Lansing, home to about 49,000 Michigan State University students.

“It’s sadly ironic that this effort to make voting more difficult comes as the legislature considers another bill, HB 4724, that would modestly expand voting accessibility for Michiganders,” McElroy said. “We need to give citizens more opportunities to register and vote, not fewer.”

In addition to Common Cause, the letter to Snyder was signed by ACLU, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, The Campaign Legal Center, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, and Project Vote.