Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today unveiled her legislative agenda for elections – Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy – to expand voter accessibility and further strengthen the infrastructure and security of Michigan elections.
“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. “Our job now is clear: to defend and protect democracy by ensuring that no matter how one votes, who they vote for, where they live, or what they look like, their vote will be counted.”
Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy outlines a number of initiatives, all designed to ensure equitable access for voters, strengthen Michigan’s elections infrastructure and guarantee the security of elections. Specifically, Benson is proposing the following:
- Require absentee ballot applications be mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle;
- Mandate ballots postmarked by Election Day and received shortly after are counted;
- Establish early in-person voting;
- Make Election Day a state holiday to facilitate voting and make it easier for citizens to serve as election workers;
- Allow overseas service members and spouses to return their ballots electronically;
- Require translated election materials where a significant non-English-speaking community lives;
- Provide funds to ensure voting locations are ADA-compliant and establish curbside voting;
- Allow processing of absentee ballots two weeks prior to Election Day;
- Prohibit deceptive election practices that deter or mislead voters;
- Prohibit open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a voting location;
- Mandate training standards for election challengers and election workers; and,
- Require a statewide risk-limiting audit of election results prior to state certification.
Benson unveiled her Advancing the Vote plan on the first day of Black History Month in tribute to the many Black Americans whose sacrifice helped bring about expanded 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.”
The Benson Administration is working with members of the state Legislature to draft and introduce bills that embody the Advancing the Vote plan, which is already receiving support from State Representative Matt Koleszar, vice chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee and State Senators Jeremy Moss, Adam Hollier, and Paul Wojno.
The Benson proposal comes at a time when state lawmakers across the country on both sides of the aisle are laying out plans that could impact voting rights. According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, state legislators across the country have filed 106 bills – triple the number at this time last year – to generally make it harder to cast a ballot.
The Full Legislative Agenda for Elections:
- Require absentee ballot applications are mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle
- Require counting of ballots postmarked by election day and received shortly after
- Establish early in-person voting at clerk offices and satellite offices prior to Election Day
- Make Election Day a state holiday
- Allow overseas service members and their spouses to return their ballots electronically
- Require translated election materials where a significant non-English-speaking community lives
- Provide funds to ensure voting locations are ADA compliant and establish curbside voting
- Allow transportation assistance to the polls
- Allow processing of absentee ballots two weeks prior to Election Day
- Provide an additional week for the county canvass
- Allow recounts of precincts with clerical errors
- Consolidate May and August elections into one June election
- Provide dependable funding for local election officials
- Update language on absentee ballots and applications
- Prohibit deceptive election practices that deter or mislead voters
- Prohibit open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a voting location
- Provide election officials additional tools to maintain the registration list
- Require election challenger and election worker training
- Update security requirements for election vendors
- Require a statewide risk-limiting audit prior to state election certification