FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact MNA: Christina Kuo, Sr. Dir.of Public Policy & Public Affairs (517) 492-2408 (ofc) (248)762-6113 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
February 28, 2012 Media Contact Common Cause MI: Melanie McElroy, Executive Director(517) 610-2576, email@example.com
Media Contact Project Vote: Sarah Massey, Media Director(202) 210-6614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lansing – Michigan voters were surprised to see a new requirement before getting their ballots at the polls today for the Presidential Primary. Poll workers are asking properly registered voters to check a box declaring that the voter is a United States Citizen. Voters seeking an absentee ballot saw the same question on their ballot application. Citizen groups and nonprofits serving vulnerable populations are calling this new requirement redundant and a waste of tax dollars.
“Requiring voters to affirm their citizenship, again, at the polls on Election Day and on absentee voter ballot applications is a solution in search of a problem,” said Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan. This new requirement will only confuse long-time voters who affirmed their citizenship when they registered to vote for the first time,” said McElroy
Under the Michigan Election Law, voters have to swear under oath they are an eligible voter – which includes U.S. citizenship – when they apply to vote and it is verified by the Secretary of State’s or local clerks offices when the application is processed.
“Our elections must be free from fraud and we can do it without creating redundant steps,” said Kyle Caldwell, CEO and President of the Michigan Nonprofit Association. “Nonprofits want to help ensure integrity at the polls and want to work with Secretary Johnson to achieve this goal and ensure all eligible voters can participate. MNA’s members work with and serve in communities that often need the most assistance and fewest barriers to participate in our democratic process” said Caldwell.
Groups have received reports from voters in various precincts around the state who are surprised and angry about this unnecessary and burdensome requirement. Additionally, there are also reports of inconsistent application of this new requirement by election officials.
“Secretary Johnson appears to be implementing an election bill that hasn’t even passed the House–much less been signed into law. The legislative process would be meaningless if politicians could just enforce the bills they like,” said Katy Flanagan, Project Vote’s Director of Election Administration. Our goal is to ensure no eligible voter is turned away from the polls. To protect everyone’s right to vote, our election officials should be enforcing existing laws, not proposed legislation,” said Flanagan.
The Michigan Legislature is considering legislation, SB 803, sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart), which requires voters to affirmatively state their citizenship before receiving a ballot at the polls. The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Elections and Redistricting Committee.