‘Hard, but Necessary Work’: A Look into Michigan’s Newest Democracy Bills
Nearly eight months ago, Michiganders made a powerful choice.
That choice? To come together to bring Michigan elections into the 21st century and make them better than they’ve ever been. We knew our democracy would be stronger with safe, secure, and expanded access to the ballot for eligible voters across the state. And — in no shock to us — Michigan overwhelmingly voted in favor of this idea, resulting in the passage of Prop. 2 and countless advocates up and down the ballot.
Now, Gov. Whitmer has just signed into law eight bills to make the provisions of Prop. 2 a reality. We’ve been working with partners and legislators for months to make sure that these implementation bills will do what they are intended: provide additional structure, details and clarification to the language passed in Prop. 2. We are thrilled that our hard work has paid off. Here are a few we’re most excited about:
- SB 339; Enhanced ballot tracking: Allows vote by mail voters to more easily track the status of their ballot from request to submission.
- SB 367; Expands Early voting: Adds 9 days of early voting before each election day – making voting more accessible for people who have other obligations on Election Day.
- SB 370; Signature and cure/prepaid postage: Implements requirements to allow voters to fix clerical errors with their ballots. It also requires prepaid postage for all absentee ballot applications and envelopes, saving voters time and trips to the Post Office.
- SB 373; ID for election purposes: Allows Michiganders to use their US passport, tribal photo ID card, military ID card, or student ID to identify themselves when they show up to vote. This law simply expands the valid forms of ID accepted to certify that you are who you say you are.
- HB 4696; Criminal penalties for disclosing early results: Makes disclosing an election result from an early voting site before Election Day a Class E felony against Public Trust.
- HB 4697; Drop boxes: Requires all municipalities with more than 15,000 registered electors to provide at least one drop box for vote-by-mail ballot return, making it even easier to vote by mail in Michigan.
- HB 4699; Permanent Mail Ballot List: Many of the above bills center around access. This bill, which aims to provide folks with a mail-in ballot for future elections, expands that access at a larger, systematic scale. By guaranteeing that voters who request mail-in ballots receive them for future elections, Michiganders are provided with the opportunity to continuously be engaged in how their state and communities are run.
- HB 4702; Precinct Size: Increases the maximum size of an election precinct, lowering costs for local governments.
Let’s be clear: Now that the proper structures are in place, it is up to our election officials across the Great Lakes State to make sure they implement these changes. That will involve both leaders and the public engaging with them with the proper education and making sure to hold these officials accountable.
Additionally, with both 1500+ municipalities across the state and the change in Michigan’s place in the Presidential primaries, these advancements will have to be in effect by early 2024. That leaves us with just under six months to do the work to get this task completed. From the needs of small villages and townships as well as the biggest cities in the state, this will be Michigan’s next big task to ensure our elections run more effectively and in an accessible manner.
However, if there’s one thing Michiganders have proven to the rest of the country, it’s that we are not afraid of fighting for democracy. It will be hard, but necessary work to make sure that the will of the people is respected. We’re prepared to be involved in completing that work, because Common Cause Michigan is dedicated to making sure the will of the people is respected. We hope to see you alongside us.