After gathering more than 430,000 signatures, Michigan’s Promote the Vote campaign has submitted a proposed ballot initiative that, simply put, would make voting easier. The changes proposed include allowing straight-ticket voting, no-reason absentee voting, same-day registration, and automatic voter registration. Each of these policies would be a step toward ensuring every Michigander can exercise their right to vote.
As it stands, Michigan’s election laws include numerous, unnecessary barriers that keep people from voting. Requiring specific reasons for absentee voting takes the option away from individuals who have difficulty voting on Election Day due to work schedules or unreliable transportation. A registration deadline that falls almost a month before Election Day gives voters less time to submit their paperwork. A ban on straight-ticket voting–which is currently being debated in court–makes voting take longer by increasing wait times. None of these policies serve any real purpose, except to make it more difficult to vote. These burdens also disproportionately impact low-income and elderly voters, who are more likely to have difficulty meeting these requirements to vote.
The policies proposed by Promote the Vote have the potential to alleviate these barriers to voting. Automatic voter registration, first passed in Oregon in 2015, has been shown to increase both participation and diversity of voters by decreasing the steps necessary to vote. No-reason absentee voting allows voters to cast their ballots while avoiding lines on Election Day. Same-day registration ensures an individual’s ability to vote doesn’t depend on remembering a deadline before the election. The overall result: More people are able to participate in democracy.
Like many election reforms, the Promote the Vote campaign has drawn criticism from conservatives who insist restrictions are necessary to prevent a virtually nonexistent problem. Contrary to what Republicans want you to believe, voter fraud is not a tangible threat to our democracy. The real goal of those who want to restrict voter access is to disenfranchise voters. Using voting restrictions to suppress turnout for political purposes is unacceptable. Voting rights should not be a partisan issue and everyone, regardless of party, should want to modernize our election laws.
Americans have always preached the value of democracy as a way to ensure everyone can have a voice in government, and it’s past time to enact policies reflecting that. We should be doing everything we can to make the ballot box accessible to every eligible voter. Passing these reforms would be a great start.