Michigan Secretary of State lays out ambitious plan to encourage more voting

High School students in Alachua County will still get the chance to pre-register to vote, but...
High School students in Alachua County will still get the chance to pre-register to vote, but this time it will be virtual.(WCJB File)
Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 1:04 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson unveiled an ambitious plan Monday to encourage more voters to take part in the state’s elections.

The 12-part plan called Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy includes a number of voting provisions allowed in other states, along with controversial provisions that sparked intense debate ahead of the Nov. 3, 2020, general election.

Benson made the following proposals:

  • Require absentee voter applications be mailed to all registered voters before federal elections.
  • Require all ballots postmarked by Election Day be counted even if they arrive later.
  • Establish a process for early in-person voting.
  • Make Election Day a state holiday so more workers have the day off to cast their ballot or serve as election workers.
  • Allow military members stationed overseas to cast their ballots electronically.
  • Require election materials be printed in another language in areas with a large non-English speaking population.
  • Provide funding to upgrade more polling places for handicapped accessibility.
  • Outlaw deceptive election practices that aim to deter or mislead voters.
  • Prohibit openly carrying firearms within 100 feet of a polling location.
  • Mandate training standards for election challengers and poll workers.
  • Require a statewide risk-limiting audit of election results before state certification.

“Michigan voters want elections to be accessible, strong and secure. We saw this in 2018 when voters enshrined expanded voting rights in our state constitution, and again in 2020 when record numbers of voters exercised their new rights,” said Benson.

She announced the election reform proposals on the first day of Black History Month as a tribute to many Black Americans who sacrificed to expand voting rights for all citizens.

“Today, we stand on the shoulders of the brave men and women who have fought for voting rights and fair elections in our country,” said Benson’s Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler. “They recognized what we all know: Voting rights are civil rights, and accessible, strong and secure elections benefit every Michigan community and every Michigan citizen.”

Benson is working with the Michigan Legislature to draft bills that would accomplish her goals. Four Democrats -- a state representative and three state senators -- are endorsing the plan and working to get the bills passed.

“We learned a lot about meaningful steps we can take to expand equitable access to the ballot box, strengthen our voting infrastructure and increase security and transparency going forward. I strongly support Secretary Benson’s legislative recommendations and look forward to showing the rest of the nation how democracy can thrive in the 21st century,” said State Rep. Matt Koleszar, who is vice chairman of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

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