New report warns that Michigan is vulnerable to election day ‘dirty tricks,’ praises state’s outreach to new citizens

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  • Dale Eisman

Mary Boyle, Common Cause, (202) 736-5770

Tim Rusch, Demos, (212) 389-1407

Early voter registration deadline faulted; state commended for guarding privacy and security of overseas and military ballots

Washington, DC – A new study concludes that Michigan law falls short in protecting voters against misinformation campaigns that in some states have been used to keep qualified voters away from the polls; the state also makes it troublingly easy for properly registered voters to be challenged on Election Day, the report says.

The report, “Voting in 2010: Ten Swing States,” examines Michigan election laws and policies and highlights the impact they could have on voter participation in the upcoming mid-term elections. Because at least two House seats will be closely contested, participation rates could be critical in determining election results. The report was produced by national policy centers and election watchdogs Common Cause and Demos. It also reviews voting laws and policies in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio.

“Given that Michigan was at the center of controversy regarding challenges to voters whose homes had been foreclosed in 2008, we remain concerned about voter caging and challenges at the polls in that state,” said Tova Wang, Senior Democracy Fellow at Demos and author of the report. “We also hope that extra care will be taken to ensure that voters and poll workers understand that under Michigan’s voter identification law, any voter without photo ID can sign an affirmation and vote a regular ballot.”

“When races are close the spotlight shines on how well we run our elections,” said Christina Kuo, executive director of Michigan Common Cause. “The rules of the game need to be fair, and they need to be enforced. Our report highlights where voters need to be vigilant and Michigan needs to improve.”

The report examines problematic voting areas including registration, ID issues (which can present burdens to those who don’t hold traditional identification such as a driver’s license), provisional ballots, voter suppression and deception tactics, caging and challenge laws, voting by overseas and military voters, and challenges for new citizens and ethnic minorities. A summary chart evaluates each state’s practices, and a set of recommendations is offered for improvement of these voting procedures.

For Michigan, the report found several significant obstacles to full voter participation.

Despite cooperative efforts between the state’s Department of Human Resources and voter advocates, data on voter registration at public assistance agencies suggest that improved National Voter Registration Act procedures have not been uniformly implemented throughout the state.

Because the state has no law specifically prohibiting deceptive practices, voters are vulnerable to Election Day dirty tricks and misinformation campaigns.

Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct – even when several precincts vote at a common site or the voter chooses the wrong precinct within his/her home county — will not be counted, potentially disenfranchising a great number of eligible voters.

The voter registration deadline falls 30 days prior to the election, effectively barring some interested citizens from being able to register to vote in time to cast ballots.

Prior to Election Day, any registered voter in a municipality may challenge the registration of any registered voter. On Election Day, any registered voter of the precinct at the polling place may challenge a voter.

On the positive side, the report found some exemplary voting laws and procedures which other states would do well to emulate.

Citizens regain their voting rights as soon as they are released from prison.

Michigan does not jeopardize the privacy and security of overseas and military voters by accepting ballots cast by fax, e-mail, or over the Internet. Ballots are sent out to voters “upon receipt” of a request and in accordance with the 45-day rule of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act

The Secretary of State makes a serious effort to conduct voter registration at citizenship naturalization ceremonies.

Click here for the full report, executive summary and other swing state information.