Today, Michigan became the first state to automatically register people to vote as they leave prison. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law House Bill 4983 requiring Michigan’s secretary of state to coordinate with the Department of Corrections to register people upon their release from prison as part of an expansion of the state’s automatic voter registration (AVR) program.
“Today is a good day for democracy in Michigan because more people will have a voice at the polls, in how our state is governed, and how our tax dollars are spent,” said Quentin Turner, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan. “Voting rights are under attack in many parts of our country, but today Michigan takes a step forward to expand access to the ballot. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and our democracy is stronger when more of us able to cast a ballot.”
The National Voting in Prison Coalition (founded by Common Cause and other good government and civil & human rights organizations) will be championing similar legislation during 2024 state legislative session around the country.
“The National Voting in Prison Coalition is united around the common goal that voting rights must be accessible for all, “said Keshia Morris Desir, Justice & Democracy Manger at Common Cause. “Our freedom to vote is a fundamental right that empowers us to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives and communities. Federal and local laws must allow more voices to participate, be heard, and ultimately be represented.”
According to statistics from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, the program will impact more than 8,000 individuals annually who are released from state prisons.
Michigan first adopted statewide automatic voter registration in 2018 as part of a ballot measure that was passed by an overwhelming majority of Michiganders. To date, the state’s AVR program has largely relied on the public interaction with the department of motor vehicles to implement its automatic registration.
In addition to the department of corrections, H.B. 4983 will expand the program to other agencies in order to reach sections of the population less likely to drive. The expansion will include the Department of Health and Human Services and Native American tribes and nations within the state in order to reach those applying for Medicare or tribal identification. Other agencies will be able to join the AVR expansion as they implement procedures to verify eligibility.
Common Cause applauds the F.A.I.R Voting Alliance, Institute for Responsive Government, Promote the Vote, Voters Not Politicians, ACLU of Michigan, Michigan LCV, Healthy Democracy Healthy People, Vot-ER, All Voting is Local, Campaign Legal Center, Protect Democracy, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Common Cause Michigan for leading on this important legislation that serves as a critical step in making right the wrongs of the past.