Ballot drive seeks to expand voting in battleground Michigan

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan ballot drive that was launched Monday would make it easier to vote, creating more than a week of early voting, letting all voters request an absentee ballot for future elections and requiring prepaid postage on return envelopes.

The proposed constitutional amendment also would prohibit legislative or other attempts to “unreasonably” burden the right to vote and would enshrine the duties of the state's canvassing board to certify results after Donald Trump's unprecedented attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

The measure was announced as Republicans in the battleground state circulate petitions for a veto-proof initiative they contend would improve election integrity. Democrats say, however, the earlier announced GOP-backed measure would restrict voting.

Promote the Vote, which successfully pushed a 2018 ballot proposal that expanded absentee voting and authorized same-day voter registration, needs roughly 425,000 valid signatures by mid-July for the proposal announced Monday to qualify for the November ballot.

“Our goal is simple really. It's to continue building a voting system that works for everyone in Michigan,” said Khalilah Spencer, the group's president. Backers include groups such as Voters Not Politicians, which organized a voter-approved ballot drive that put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Since Trump falsely claimed the election was stolen, some Republican-controlled states have restricted voting by mail and made other changes such as limiting when voters can cast ballots.

In Michigan, the GOP has been unable to change election laws due to vetoes from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is up for reelection along with Democratic governors in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But Republicans are gathering signatures that would enable the GOP-controlled Legislature to toughen in-person voter identification rules; require people to information besides just a signature, such as a driver’s license number, on absentee ballot applications; and make voters without a photo ID verify their identity within six days of an election. The governor could not veto the initiative.

The Promote the Vote measure could effectively neuter the Republican drive by enshrining current rules, including signature verification, into the state constitution while also creating new rights such as a nine-day early voting period ending the Sunday before an election. State-funded prepaid postage on absentee ballot applications and ballots would be mandatory. That currently is done by some municipalities but not others.

Other provisions would require an absentee ballot drop box in every municipality, including one for every 15,000 residents, create a tracking system for submitted ballots and allow all voters to sign a single absentee ballot application covering all future elections. Many but not all clerks already automatically mail applications to people on their permanent absent voter list.

Proponents said the proposal would ensure that elections are determined solely by the votes cast. It says that the Board of State Canvassers is the “only body” authorized to certify Michigan or federal elections.

“It makes crystal clear that the people of Michigan and not the Legislature decide the outcome of our elections in this state. And rather than taking away rights that are enjoyed by Michigan voters, it offers more secure voting options for voting in Michigan,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians.


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