This action digest published below is produced by Promote the Vote Michigan.
National Voter Registration Day may be over, but PTV is still working hard to ensure that all eligible Michiganders have access to secure and convenient voter registration opportunities. To that end, we’d like to highlight two very important registration-related bills that are currently moving through the legislature: pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds (HB 4569) and secure AVR (HB 4983).
Pre-registration would allow eligible individuals ages 16 to 17.5 to “pre-register” to vote by submitting their voter registration information to election officials, while Secure AVR would strengthen and broaden the reach of Michigan’s existing automatic voter registration system to ensure that even more eligible Michiganders would benefit. Our communities are at their strongest when all our voices are heard, and together these bills would make it easier for all Michiganders to make their voices heard as soon as they are eligible.
Pre-registration passed the House in June and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Elections Committee. Secure AVR was introduced last week and is awaiting a hearing in the House Elections Committee.
We encourage you to help get the word out about these bills. We have social media carousels and sample social media posts on pre-registration here and secure AVR here. (A carousel is a social media post containing more than one image or video. To share either of these carousels, you will need to download every graphic in the folder and upload them together in one posting. If you have any difficulties or questions, please reach out to our Communications Manager, Angela Porter, at [email protected].)
We also have more detailed one-pagers here and here. And if you have questions or would like more details about either of these bills, please don’t hesitate to contact PTV Policy Counsel Melanie Macey at [email protected].
- All voters with November elections in their communities have the option of voting by absentee ballot before Election Day OR at their polling location on Election Day. Some voters in a small number of communities will also have the opportunity to vote before Election Day at an early voting site, as part of a pilot of Michigan’s new early voting system. We will share additional details as soon as we have them.
- The Secretary of State has published a list of communities with elections on November 7. To see if there is an election in their community, voters should consult this list, as the Michigan Voter Information Center (MI.gov/vote) has not yet been updated for this election.
- If you’re planning to vote from home in the November 7 election, we recommend applying for your ballot ASAP to ensure that you have enough time to receive your ballot, complete it, and return it to your city or township clerk by the deadline. If you joined the Permanent Mail Ballot List in or after May 2023, and there’s an election in your community in November, you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail.
- Voters can get a paper application for an absentee ballot from their city or township clerk or online at mi.gov/vote (applications are available in English, Bengali, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish and large print). Voters with a valid Michigan driver’s license or state ID card also have the option to complete the online application for an absentee ballot. Voters in need of an accessible absentee ballot can apply for one online here.
VOTING RIGHTS IN THE LEGISLATURE
- Secure AVR: Last week,House Elections Committee Chair, Representative Tserneglou, introduced HB 4983, a Secure AVR bill, which would make critical improvements to Michigan’s automatic voter registration process. We anticipate that it will be heard in the House Elections Committee next week, and PTV plans to testify in support.
- Election Official Intimidation: The House Elections Committee voted to send HBs 4129 and 4130 to the full house for a vote, recommending their passage. HB 4129 would protect election officials from threats intended to interfere with the performance of their election duties, and HB 4130 would provide for certain punishments if individuals engage in threatening or intimidating behavior against election officials. PTV submitted a card in support of this bill substitute at the hearing on 9/12.
Other Voting-Related Bills
- Electronic Submission of Poll Worker Applications:The House Elections Committee heard testimony on SB 385 which would allow individuals to submit a poll worker application electronically. PTV submitted a card in support of this bill because expediting the application process will make it easier for clerks to recruit and assign poll workers. This will be especially important next year when clerks will have to staff not only polling locations on Election Day, but early voting sites for (at least) nine days, as well.
- Providing Voting Information Upon Reentry: The House Elections Committee voted to send HB 4534 to the full house for a vote, recommending its passage. The bill would require the Michigan Department of Corrections to provide certain voting information to incarcerated citizens upon their reentry into the community. PTV submitted a card in support of this bill.
- Increasing the Size of Election Day Precincts: The House Elections Committee voted to send SB 374 to the full House for a vote, recommending its passage. The bill would increase the size of Election Day precincts from 2,999 to 4,999 active registered electors. (The House version (HB 4702) passed and was signed by the governor in June, but it did not receive immediate effect. So the House took up the identical Senate bill and modified the number by one voter to send it for another vote, presumably to get immediate effect this time.)
- Electronic Ballot Return for Military and Overseas Voters: The Senate Elections and Ethics Committee voted to send SB 470 to the full Senate for a vote, recommending its passage. This bill would push back the date by which active duty uniformed service members and merchant marines are eligible to return their absentee ballots electronically from January 1, 2024 to September 1, 2025.
PROP 2 IMPLEMENTATION – EARLY VOTING
- Cities and townships must inform their county government of their early voting plans for next year by September 30. The county must then submit a countywide early voting plan to the state by October 31.
Early Voting in Ottawa County
- Currently, all 23 cities and townships in Ottawa County have tentatively agreed to enter into an early voting agreement with the county. Through this agreement, the jurisdictions will share the costs of staffing and administering early voting at four early voting sites throughout the county during the mandatory nine-day early voting period next year. As of September 12, 2023, the local governing bodies in 21 of the 23 cities and townships in Ottawa County have already approved this countywide early voting plan ahead of the September 30 deadline.
- The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners was expected to approve or deny funding for this early voting plan last week, after it received unanimous approval from the Board’s finance committee. But, at the last minute, the far-right Commissioners removed this vote from the agenda in favor of a discussion, in hopes of making changes to the plan, such as requiring all cities and townships who are part of the agreement to use watermarked ballots and requiring that every early voting site be livestreamed. Seven local clerks gave public comments at the meeting, explaining the urgency of the Commission’s vote on expenditures related to the plan.
- County Boards of Commissioners do not have any legal authority over the manner in which early voting is conducted. PTV is aware of this situation and will continue to monitor it.
- More information about the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, generally, is available from The Detroit News.
FIGHTING ANTI-VOTER ACTIVITY
- The Center for American Progress has published a new report with extensive recommendations for social media companies and artificial intelligence developers to help safeguard elections throughout the world in 2024 and beyond.
- PTV Executive Director Micheal Davis Jr. and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will discuss recent changes to Michigan’s election laws during a webinar on Thursday September 21 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. The webinar will be hosted by the Michigan Civic Education Fund, Voters Not Politicians, the Institute for Responsive Government Action, ACLU Michigan, Promote the Vote, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Ed. Fund’s Democracy For All. You can register for the webinar here.
- Detroit Disability Power will be hosting a train-the-trainer workshop on how to replicate poll site audits on Monday, September 25. Learn how to conduct a high-quality audit so your organization can push for greater accessibility in our democratic processes. A thirty minute Q&A will follow the workshop. More details and a registration link are available here.
- The Institute for Responsive Government Action is hosting a reception to celebrate Prop 2 and the eight Prop 2 implementation bills that have passed thus far. This reception – co-hosted by Promote the Vote, ACLU-MI, League of Women Voters of Michigan, NAACP Michigan State Conference, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and Voters Not Politicians – will be held on Tuesday, September 26 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m at the MHA Capitol Advocacy Center (110 W Michigan Avenue, Suite 1200 Lansing, MI 48933). Please RSVP here.
- The 6th annual Michigan Student Voting Summit – hosted by Campus Vote Project, Oakland University, and the Michigan Department of State – will be held on Friday, October 6 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Oakland University. The Summit is free to all attendees, and stipends are available to assist with travel costs. Register for the Summit here.